DISPUTANA, Va - The Wounded Warrior Project announced the organization is investing $160 million in mental health care treatment for veterans nationwide. The organization said over the next five years more than 5,000 veterans will be able to participate in an intensive clinical program to treat post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caused by service.
A retired Marine living in Disputana, VA, went through the program and said it "saved his life."
Gunnery Sgt. Bryant Mormon retired from the Marines after more than 22 years of service, which included three deployments to the Middle East in the mid-2000's. Mormon said he was diagnosed with PTSD and a mild traumatic brain injury after retirement, but his mood never recovered.
As recently as a few years ago, Mormon said he considered ending his own life. Studies show that approximately 20 U.S. service members and veterans commit suicide every day.
"I was terrible as a person, I thought, when I came home. . . I didn't realize how abrasive I was with the children, abrasive with my wife," Mormon said. "I had been at the VA; nothing worked. I had been to a private psychologist who didn't know anything about the military."
In 2016, Mormon said he reached out to the Wounded Warrior Project asking for financial help since he was struggling finding work. A woman with the organization told him he may be suited for a new program aimed at helping veterans battling PTSD after returning to civilian life.
The Warrior Care Network partners with four medical centers across the country and provides veterans and their families with access to intensive clinical treatment. The program includes outpatient treatment, therapy sessions, and group therapy sessions with other veterans. Mormon spent three weeks at the Roads Home at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
"I didn't unpack my bags for the first week because I thought I was going to leave. Oh, yeah, it was pretty bad," he said.
The program helped Mormon hone in on the incident from his service known as the "trauma index" or "first trauma." Mental health professionals define the trauma index as a moment or moments that most likely cause the majority of PTSD symptoms.
"So with my trauma index, I had shot and killed a little girl who was six or seven years old. Her dad drove through a check point," Mormon said, pausing for a few seconds to gather his thoughts before continuing on.
The Warrior Care Network not only helped Mormon identify that moment, the program taught him how to cope with living with his trauma after transitioning back to civilian life. He was taught how to break through the depression he experienced by accepting what had happened and learning to talk about his service with fellow veterans and loved ones.
"Had I not been through them coping mechanisms, I would have made the news, not in a positive way. You wouldn't have been interviewing me now. You would have been interviewing me with an orange jumpsuit. I mean it," he said.
One in three service members suffer from PTSD, and one in five live with traumatic brain injuries caused by their service. Mormon said seeking care for his mental health struggles no doubt saved his life, and he encourages all veterans to seek out help.
"I have so many vets that I reach out now to get them involved with wounded warriors, to get them involved with the program, to get them some help, to get them to the VA. We don't, and we wait till it's too late," Mormon said.