The stigma needs to be removed…

Veterans, Cops, and other people in stressful jobs find it hard to admit they’re having problems.  The main reason is dealing with the Stigma that comes with admitting mental illness.

I was an infantryman for 4 years with the Stryker Brigade in Alaska.  Infantry is full of alpha males and people who want to be perceived as mentally and physically tough.  I was guilty of heaping some scorn on a fellow soldier for coming to terms with his issues.  I thought I was tougher and less likely to suffer PTSD or other mental health issues.

It wasn’t because I was tougher, I’d say.  I was just calmer and rational about violence and stress.  That was just in the moment, however.  I tended to become emotional and angry after.  I’ve been in fistfights, bar fights, and altercations since Iraq.  I’ve also been recalled in the military after being out for 2 years.

What changed my life for the better was realizing the problems I was having and becoming proactive.  I’d accidentally fell into the vet center through a friend.  It took years of work and medication to calm me down and put me on the right path.  The Vet Center helped me form this nonprofit and set goals.  The VAF’s where I want to work and create for the rest of my life.

There are a number of resources for veterans.  I’ll highlight the Vet Center today and more later.   Active duty military have a hard time finding them or getting involved.  I was lucky, but the word needs to be spread.  Here’s a video and a link to the Vet Center homepage.  They’re confidential.  While under the VA, they’re not required to share information.

http://www.vetcenter.va.gov/

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The VAF in Social Media:

The Veterans Art Foundation has recently renewed it’s facebook and twitter accounts with a passion.  We’ve driven in more traffic and fans then we have in months.  We have over 350 followers in the Art, Veteran, and nonprofit communities.  Our twitter grade is: 88 out of 100, which is a decent start.  It measures our influence, reach, and followers ratio.

The Facebook fan page now has 163 people “liking” it.  It’s a small number to start with, but we’ve increased 150% in the last few days.   Our links have been commented and re-posted across the net.  We’ve also started a new campaign for a massive project that will bring together artists and veterans on an unheard of scale.

Our Links to help out:  Twitter.com/veteransart Facebook: Veterans Art Foundation Homepage: VAF

Thanks for caring.

Waterbury Police Department Training

Training police about veterans’ issues can be a tricky endeavor.  Police on the whole are a tough group to break through when face to face during instructions.  One has to reach out to them on a level playing field.  Cops are reserved as a group and individually.  A great deal of veterans are officers of the law and that may help.

Veterans are slowly but surely causing issues within the criminal justice system.  Domestic violence, dui’s, alcohol, and drug abuse are becoming prevalent in our generation.  No one’s immune, in our cohort.  Whether you suffer or cause suffering isn’t always the issue.  Others around you will, and ignoring it will cause it to escalate to an epidemic.

Facing a group of police is nerve wracking when leading a discussion panel and questions and answers.  In order to reach them, you must make them understand   Cops usually respond to gallows humor, but today, mine fell short.  They listened carefully, sans one aloof officer, who didn’t keep his smirks to himself.  (I may have misinterpreted his ticks though).

Chris and I taught police signs of PTSD, depression, identifying and coping mechanisms for veterans.  We also share how to deescalate potentially violent situations through empathy.  In the end, some police officers approached us with questions and complements.  One of the greatest things we’ve heard has been “this has been the greatest training I’ve ever had in X years.”  It’s flattering and means we have reached at least some level of understanding within the law enforcement community.

Death of Dreams

I grew up, hoping to be one of two things.  A cop or an Archeologist (thanks, Indiana Jones!), and these at first seemed attainable.  Arguably the archeologist one still is.  I even graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in Criminal Justice.  After failing to drift right into a police job, I joined the military.

Spending four years in the army was no cake-walk.  It also wasn’t too bad at times.  The 16 months of combat took its toll on my mental stability and anger management.  I went for disability and ended up walking away with 60%.  The choice I made of admitting my problems and seeking disability has rendered my dreams of ever becoming a cop virtually nonexistent.

I started the art foundation in response.  I’m no painter, but I love writing and film and appreciate all aspects of art.  I’ve written films, screenplays, and even shopped around a screenplay (failing, I might add) since being home.  This is my plan for the future.  (may do one of those Archeology vacations and hopefully fight off Nazis)

The problem with disability (mentally and/or physically) and admitting you have them, resounds throughout your life.  As a 60% vet, I cannot apply for police departments.  The state has the highest, at 50 percent acceptance.  Even then, I don’t think they’d allow me, with my depression and anxiety in.  These issues will affect large numbers of veterans with problems.  They have to balance their issues with job opportunities.

A large portion of combat vets seek jobs in law enforcement or the likes. Those jobs suite their needs and personality.  If they admit their issues, then they’re basically out of luck.  Finding other meaningful work, will be tough.  That’s why I hope to at least help  alleviate some stress with this foundation.  There will be thousands of disenfranchised veterans with little motivation when dreams disappear before their very eyes.  Something needs to change, whether it be laws or employment standards.  To deny veterans jobs, is a crime.

Middletown Public Access

Jay White, Aaron Jones, Jesse and I filmed a show on Middletown Public access.  The show’s hosted by a veteran and deals primarily with veterans issues/needs and news.  The purpose of our visit was to discuss readjustment problems with veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The group discussion went well.  My only problems with it is the time limit.  It’s hard for rookies like myself to pare down our talks.  It was interesting to talk an older generation of veterans.   I had to watch my cursing though, and that’s tough sometimes.

Aaron as usual, impressed the producers and helped get our group offered a spot in one of their open time slots.  We hope to start the show sometime in the next month or tow.  In all probability, it will be formatted around art and veteran issues.

Watch the program on Tuesdays this month at 7 pm.