REDUCE VETERAN SUICIDE
I was sixteen when my baby brother was born. I took this picture of him when I was working at Sears Portrait Studio in Atlanta through highschool. He was a surprise to us all, but also an extraordinary blessing. He was an all-American kid, played football, chased girls, etc.
He would struggle with massive guilt over being home. He would say things like "I don't deserve to sleep in a bed when my brothers are over there still sleeping in ditches." As a result, he would sleep on the floor.
He would sleepwalk. The house was awakened to him crouched down behind a houseplant, with a fully loaded AK47, shouting commands down the hallway in front of the bedrooms where loved ones slept. As he gently came to, to the sound of the voice of family, he busted out in tears because of the danger that he realized he put everyone in.
He came home, got off the bus, and tried to resume his normal life...but nothing was normal for him anymore.
We could see major changes in him and we, as a family, didn't really know how to handle it. We would see glimpses of the guy we knew and loved, but there was also this intensity that we couldn't calm.
After graduating high school, he enlisted in the Marines. He ended up in Special Forces and endured some major traumas and losses during his service.
He turned to Jack Daniels to medicate and quiet his mind, he couldn't sleep due to night terrors, and he couldn't go out in public because of crowds. We felt so helpless.
He would sit on the computer and call out stats to us of how 20 Marines take their lives every day: (one every 90 minutes). He would follow that up with, "That's such a coward's way out. I would never do that."
The week before Christmas, 3 years ago, he succumbed to his PTSD
My family will never be the same and it has most certainly helped propel me into public service to save other families from what we've endured.
My 3-part plan:
EMDR Therapy: This is a well-proven and very respected way of helping those who have experienced trauma to reprogram the brain on how it processes it. It doesn't erase the memory, but it neutralizes it, freeing the person from "reliving" it every time they think about it. It spares them the emotional torment and torture. I have been through it, myself, and I begged my brother to do it. He blew me off and felt he didn't need it. He'd say "I'm fine."
EQUINE Therapy: Trust and relationships are extremely difficult to reestablish once a veteran comes home. The veteran is also easily triggered by the smallest things. You cannot sneak up on or surprise a veteran. They also struggle with guilt and shame over what they have been required to do in times of war. Working with horses is a way for the veteran to ease back into healthy interaction, lessen the triggers, and learn to form a bond again. The horses reciprocate trust & love when treated with respect and stable behavior.
FAMILY PREPAREDNESS: This would be a series of sessions to help the families of our veterans to understand exactly what PTSD is, how to avoid triggers, how to say/do healthy things to make their veteran feel loved and safe, and how to rebuild a healthy relationship with their veteran. What I would have given for this opportunity with my brother!