Friday, May 22, 2015

Combating Mental Health Stigma with Statistics

Written by Brianne Sampson

There are roughly 23.4 million veterans in the United States. In addition, there are an estimated 2.2 million service members actively serving and 3.1 immediate family members. Yet these numbers only represent about 1% of the general population (SAMHSA, 2014).

For those who have served, both on the frontline and back on the homefront, the demands and stresses of military life are unique and widely misunderstood throughout the general population. Consider this, nearly 18% of service members returning from Iraq or Afghanistan have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression (SAMHSA, 2014). So roughly, 2 out of every 20 service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering from a mental health diagnosis. Yet only half of those who suffer will seek out professional treatment.

Alcohol use within the military culture is considered common and is often a part of military traditions. Once a service member or a veteran begins consuming alcohol at a rate higher than intended or begins experiencing complications from alcohol use within their lives, the substance use becomes a problem and is then considered to be a substance use disorder. It is estimated that nearly 30% of those veterans already suffering from a mental health disorder, such as PTSD or depression, are also suffering from a substance use disorder. When a service member suffers from a mental health disorder and also has a substance use disorder, studies show they are even more resistant to seeking professional treatment.

While stigma associated with mental health disorders are not isolated to the military population, the barriers to seeking treatment have different origins than the general population. Those service members still actively serving fear the loss of respect and trust within their units. Furthermore, seeking treatment is believed to be a sign of weakness (Hoge et al., 2004). Considering camaraderie is the backbone of military culture, this type of stigma can be crippling.


Treatment programs that address both mental health disorders and substance use disorders concurrently are becoming more commonplace and are now considered evidence-based treatments. Previously it was thought that a veteran had to address the substance use disorder before they could effectively participate in treatment that would address their mental health disorder. Treating only one disorder at a time could cause the veteran to bounce between problematic behaviors and various treatment approaches. For example, veterans may seek avoidance from depressive feelings or traumatic memories through substance use while attending treatment for their mental health disorder. It may appear they are making progress in treatment, when really they are avoiding the feelings through substance use. Likewise, a veteran may attend treatment to abstain from substance use, but not be able to properly address the issues that initially caused the veteran to turn to substance use, putting the veteran at an increased chance for relapse. Participating in treatment that addresses both issues simultaneously provides the veteran with the ability to develop coping skills to address the substance use and the mental health disorder and education about how the two are related. Treating PTSD, or other mental illnesses, at the same time as a substance use disorder is considered the most effective treatment method at the current time.

What does this all mean? While the statistics provided may be sobering, our veterans are not just numbers. The stigma of substance use disorders and mental health disorders exist and often prevent veterans from seeking treatment, leaving them at an increased risk for homelessness and suicide. These conditions are difficult to overcome, but there is hope! Removing the stigma associated with mental health disorders and substance use disorders can only happen if we agree to address the problem as a nation.

There are programs within the Department of Defense and the Veterans Health Administration that are addressing these issues. However, more support is needed within our local communities. These programs cannot be successful if veterans are not willing to access treatment. Reaching out to veterans in need should be a shared responsibility, and one that should not be taken lightly. Resources such as Coaching into Care, a confidential hotline, have also been created to help family members and friends talk to veterans about these difficult topics. We should all be willing to serve them, just as they have served our country.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Service Members Open Turkey Hunting Season with Experts From Mossy Oak


In the first weekend of the US turkey hunting season, Hope For The Warriors® was invited to participate in the Mossy Oak Turkey THUGS Spring Gobbler Hunt. The hunt took place on March 6-9, in Arcadia, Florida. Two service members, Martin, an Active Duty Marine Scout Sniper and EOD student, and Joe, a former Marine Scout Sniper, were able to enjoy a rejuvenating weekend of hunting.


“I am so thankful I was able to attend [the hunt]. It was such a relaxing atmosphere and such a blessing to be able to spend time with people that have some of the same issues and struggles that I do,” said Joe. “It is something I highly recommend to all of the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans out there that just need to take a breather from day to day life.”

Both Martin and Joe were able to hunt with some of the best hunters in the business, Keith Kelly and Bubba Bruce, from Turkey THUGS, who have a combined total of over 80 years of turkey hunting experience. Mossy Oak Turkey THUGS is a television series that not only provides entertainment, but also is dedicated to helping service members get back to outdoor activities. Mossy Oak recorded the hunt and testimonials, which will air in the fall on the Pursuit Channel.  

“Programs like this one are so important to veterans for many reasons, it allows us to link up with like-minded individuals and talk about similar pasts,” said Martin. “When people take their time and funds and do something like [this hunt] it catches our attention in a big way. In a way, it reminded me of who and what I was protecting.” 

Hope For The Warriors® would like to thank Mossy Oak Turkey THUGS and a host of local friends who were absolutely wonderful in their support of the hunt.

To help support programs like the one mentioned above Donate Today!

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Effects of Moral Injury on Our Veterans

Written by Vicki Lane

For quite some time PTSD has been considered to be the most common and prevalent wound of recent wars—PTSD involves fear, hyper-vigilance, anxiety, flashbacks, and nightmares.

However, some leading mental health experts are finding moral injury to be an even more insidious wound of war. Moral injury can shake the very moral fiber of service men and women. It violates deeply held moral and ethical values and beliefs that are rooted in our spiritual, religious, cultural, and family life. Our moral upbringing typically teaches us about fairness, right from wrong, do unto others, and the value of life—but many of these teachings are not always compatible with the horrors, chaos, and uncertainties of war. Warriors in combat can be caught in situations in which they have no opportunity to choose between right and wrong; often there is no clear distinction between enemy insurgents and innocent civilians.


The morally injured feel shame, guilt, grief, sorrow, and regret. They often wonder how they could possibly be the good person they thought they were if they could kill another human being, fail to save a “brother’s” life, witness human suffering and do nothing, become numb to atrocities of war.

My first introduction to a veteran experiencing moral injury was almost two years ago. This veteran shared that, six months after returning from Iraq, he left his base without authorization—to kill himself. Fortunately, he was found in time.

I began working with this veteran about a year after this event and he slowly began opening up and describing what had led him to contemplate suicide. He told me while he was in Iraq he was ordered to fire rockets into civilian homes even though it was known that inside, along with the insurgents, were innocent family members. He told me that the first time he was ordered to fire, he was completely devastated and did not think he could do it. He said even though there were RPGs being fired at him and his brothers, it was gut wrenching to fire back and he became physically ill afterwards. He shared that the same scenario played out numerous times during his deployment, and although he found it difficult each and every time, he nonetheless fired on the homes—knowing that there were civilians being killed or injured.

He shared that he thought about that frequently after returning home and wondered what kind of person can kill innocent women and children? He told me he was raised to value human life, to treat others kindly, and he could not forgive himself for the things he did while in Iraq. He shared that he used to think of himself as a good person, that he joined the military to help protect our country, and that he used to be proud of who he was. But then he discovered he wasn’t the person he thought he was, and that he was not a good person after all. How could he be? He killed innocent men, women, and children.

This veteran withdrew from his family and friends because he didn’t feel he deserved their love. He shared that he felt ashamed and guilty for his actions in Iraq and eventually began to believe he did not deserve to live when so many had died “at his hands.” This veteran was drastically suffering from moral injury.


Fortunately, this case has a happy ending thanks to senior officer who agreed to talk with the veteran. This officer helped him understand that it was not his decision to fire on these homes, that he was ordered to do so and had no choice but to follow orders. The officer shared that he also struggles with the knowledge that he was the one that gave the orders It took some time (quite a bit of time), and some deep, soulful conversations with others who were experiencing similar feelings of shame, guilt, and regret, but he finally began to see that although he may have had a small responsibility for his actions, he was following orders and could not continue to blame himself completely for his actions. He still struggles with the fact that he was the one who ultimately fired, but he said sharing his thoughts and feelings with others who have been in the same or similar situations is helping. He is beginning to recognize that he is not a bad person, and that he needs to find a way to forgive himself.

Moral injury is still not an officially recognized diagnosis and there are still may unanswered questions about the most effective way to help service members and veterans who are struggling with the effects—but for this veteran, sharing with others has made a positive difference. The last time I spoke with him he had reconnected with his family, found an apartment and a job, and was helping other veterans overcome the shame, guilt, grief, and regret they were experiencing due to moral injury.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Team Hope For The Warriors Newsletter: May


Team Hope For The Warriors® Members,

Inspire one of your training runs and boost your spring training with the Virtual Run For The Warriors®! In honor of Memorial Day, for the entire month of May, Hope For The Warriors® will be conducting a Virtual Run For The Warriors® to honor and remember our service members. The Virtual Run For The Warriors® raises both funds and awareness for Hope For The Warriors® and the needs of our military families. It can be completed at any location, pace, distance, with a group or as an individual.

Register at www.hopeforthewarriors.org/2015VirtualRun. You can create your own team or participate as an individual. Once you register you will receive a race packet with a Run For The Warriors® T-shirt, dog tag, and a customizable bib to show people who you are running to honor.

The captain of the team that raises the most funds by May 31, with a minimum of $500 raised, will win his or her choice of 2015 Marine Corps Marathon bib, 2015 Marine Corps Marathon 10K bib, or 2015 Army Ten-Miler bib.

2015 Team Races:

Team Hope For The Warriors® registration is rolling for many popular fall events! Our bibs for the Marine Corps Marathon, Marine Corps Marathon 10K, Army Ten-Miler, and TCS NYC Marathon are going fast. If you, or anyone you know is interested in competing in these events on Team Hope For The Warriors® register quickly as we have limited bibs for each race.

Below are the confirmed dates and races for 2015

October 11, 2015 – Army Ten Miler*

October 25, 2015 – Marine Corps Marathon 10K

October 25, 2015 – Marine Corps Marathon*

November 1, 2015 – TCS NYC Marathon

*Handcycle friendly race

Fundraising Tip: Sending personalized emails

Through your event registration page you can send personalized emails to potential supporters. Follow the steps below:
  1. Log into your account on the specific Team Hope For The Warriors® event website in which you are registered
  2. Click on “Enter my HQ”
  3. Click the “Email” tab
  4. Select the template you would like to use
  5. Personalize your email to connect with your donors and tell them your story
  6. Enter personalized greeting and email addresses

Remember if you plan on fundraising for future events cultivating your donor base will be important, and outlining your personal connection to the cause and Hope For The Warriors® will help your efforts.

Training Tip:

As the weather continues to get warmer, hydration will become an important part of your training and overall health. There are many different formulas and recommendations used to estimate how much water someone needs to drink daily. Below is a simple formula for someone who is moderately active: 

Male Daily Water Consumption, in fluid ounces: 
Body Weight x .35
Female Daily Water Consumption, in fluid ounces: 
Body Weight x .31

The amount of water you need to consume depends on many factors. For example, if you go on a long run or have a tough workout, you will have to drink more than the recommended amount to replenish your fluids. Always listen to your body and drink when you are thirsty, not waiting until you are dehydrated. Carrying around a water bottle and knowing how many times you need to refill or how much you need to drink to stay hydrated helps you stay ready for your next workout or race. 

Team Member Corner: Molly Pannell


Molly Pannell is a D.C native, marketing enthusiast, and lover of all things travel. She works for Monumental Sports & Entertainment, and is an avid supporter our military. In 2010, she briefly reconnected with childhood friend, Lance Corporal Eric Ward. He put a face to what she had previously only seen on the news. Unfortunately, Eric was killed in action on February 21, 2010 in Afghanistan. Since then, Molly has met many of his Marine brothers, including Michael Martinez, who lost both of his legs in March that same year. Eric’s passing and Michael’s friendship has given her a lifelong passion for supporting our veterans, and they are the reason she runs.

“I support Hope for the Warriors® because they are a sustaining resource beside our service members and their families,” said Molly. “This is my small way of saying thank you!”

Molly’s first connection to Hope For The Warriors® was through Travis Hanson, Hope For The Warriors® Sports and Recreation Senior Director. She interviewed him while doing research for her master’s degree and was inspired by his work at Hope For The Warriors®. This year Molly will be running in her second Marine Corps Marathon but first as part of Team Hope For The Warriors®.

Program Information:

Team Gear:
There are new items coming soon to the online store, including a sleeveless Team jersey! As a member of our Team, you can save 10% on all online store items. As you train, be sure to proudly wear the Hope For The Warriors® logo so that people know the reason for your hard work. Visit www.hopeforthewarriors.org/store and use the discount code TEAMH4W.

Charity Navigator:
For the fourth year in a row, Hope For The Warriors® has received a four-star rating on Charity Navigator. This exceptional rating, achieved by only 8% of the nonprofits they evaluate, highlights Hope For The Warriors® financial responsibility to the service members, military families, and families of the fallen we support. Team members can continue to ask people to donate towards fundraising goals with confidence! We invite you to view their latest evaluation of our efforts on the Charity Navigator website.

A Warrior’s Wish®:
This year, Hope For The Warriors® will grant 11 wishes to support service members, veterans, and military families. The nature of these Wishes will vary in scope from business, fitness, financial, and outdoor-related. The enrichment process will continue long after the Wish is granted to promote stability within the lives of these heroes and their families. As the Wishes are granted we will share the stories in the upcoming newsletters. Learn more about A Warriors Wish®

For more information please contact Steve Barto at sbarto@hopeforthewarriors.org.

National Running Day Event:
On June 3, 2015, Team Hope For The Warriors®, in conjunction with Athleta’s Upper West Side store, 216 Columbus Dr., will be having a Team Hope For The Warriors® fundraiser and group run, in Central Park. Tentatively the event will be held from 5-8 PM, the group run will start at 7 PM and end around 8 PM. 8% of all the sales during that period go back to Team Hope For The Warriors. All are welcome to attend.

Educated Running:
Educated Running, which is a group of seasoned running coaches, will be hosting “Form 101” clinics by Coach Munro and Coach Hammond. They will cover a number of easy ways to improve running form through body posture, cadence, foot-strike, and more.

Location for clinics:
JackRabbit - Union Square, 42 W 14th St. New York, NY (map)
Or
JackRabbit – Upper West Side, 140 W 72nd St New York, NY 

Dates & Times:
Union Square - Thursday 5/21, 4PM - 5PM, RSVP here
Union Square - Sunday 5/31, 11:30AM - 12:30PM, RSVP here

Rock ‘n’ Roll Series:
The Rock ‘n’ Roll race series has teamed up with everydayhero as their official fundraising platform. You can now run in any Rock ‘n’ Roll event and raise funds for Hope For The Warriors! Beginning March 1st, every race participant will be asked if they want to fundraise on behalf of their favorite cause during the race registration process. When you register and are asked to choose your charity, pick Hope For The Warriors® and you will automatically be given a Rock ‘n’ Roll everydayhero fundraising page!  

USA Track & Field (USATF):
Hope For The Warriors® is now a USATF Organization and if you are also a USATF member you can now run for Hope For The Warriors® as an organization! Furthermore, you can compete in the USATF championships. For more information please contact Steve Barto at sbarto@hopeforthewarriors.org.

Run For The Warriors®:
Registration is now open for the following Run For The Warriors® events:
  • 10th Annual Jacksonville Run For The Warriors® Register
  • Inaugural Memorial Day Run For The Warriors® Register 
  • 6th Annual Big Apple Run For The Warriors® Register
  • 4th Annual New Bern Run For The Warriors® Register
  • 6th Annual Sunset Run For The Warriors® Register

For the complete list of races visit www.runforthewarriors.org, check back frequently for more registration pages coming soon.

Representing the Team:

Be sure to shoot us an email with your race schedule and where you will be wearing your Team jersey. Each time you wear your jersey, you help our mission to restore self, family, and hope. Feel free to share photos and special stories too!


Important Links For Social Media:

Twitter When you tweet be sure to use #TeamH4W
MarineCorps Marathon Team Facebook Group