Veterans Helping Veterans

Veterans helping Veterans

22 Suicides A Day Due to PTSD

By Tricia Chiarelli and Maureen Rossi

Larry Noon is a Kings Park native and a proud Vietnam Veteran.  He is also an alumnus of the Northport Veterans hospital’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) inpatient program.   “There are twenty-two suicides a day – more veterans kill themselves daily than there are overdoses or car accidents,” he said.

He is disturbed by those numbers and having overcome what used to be referred to as Battle Fatigue; Noon can be found quite frequently at the Northport facility lending a support to other veterans.   “When some guys first come in they can’t even speak,” he lamented.    Noon compares the overall program at the hospital to AA or NA.   “There are support groups, guys you can call anytime, almost like a sponsor,” he explained.

The Northport Hospital has an inpatient PTSD facility that has been in operation about eighteen years; they also have outpatient programs.  “It’s an open door policy, if someone is having a hard time, they can just show up, walk through those doors,” said Dr. Vivian Mendelson who has dedicated her life to this work.

The bucolic grounds just south of 25A in Northport have rolling hills, a duck pond and a beautiful golf course.   However, there is no mistaking the compound for anything outside institutional.  The sturdy brick building play many roles for the treatment of all of Long Island’s veterans.

ptsdWHERE MIRACLES HAPPEN

Larry Noon gathered with members of the staff, graduates of the PTSD program (alumni), members of the Kings Park non-profit Angels Without Faces and Nurse Patty Williams who runs the Therapeutic Cooking Program for the unit for a special event.

They gathered to accept donations for the cooking program from the Kings Park non-profit Angels Without Faces.   “They interact with each other during the program, it allows them to reach goals and be part of the community,” said staff member Dr. Keith Shebairo.

All veterans present agreed the stressors of today’s modern fighting man are quite different than in wars or conflicts of the past.   Noon says because the amount of Improvised Explosive Devises (IEDs) used in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, many veterans are afraid to go to places with crowds or strange people like malls or supermarkets.

“The guys will cook together, eat together, it builds camaraderie, something they are familiar with as its part of the military experience – we find they isolate less,” said Nurse Williams.

ANGELS ARRIVE FOR LI VETERANS

Angels Without Faces is a non-profit based out of Kings Park that  provides  emergency financial need for families or people in need through annual golf outing and dinners and holiday parties.

Noon is part of Angels and he asked for their help with the Therapeutic cooking program.  “The goal for the program was forty gift cards for supermarkets so the men could buy the cooking supplies/food for the program,” said Noon.

The Kings Park High School Business Club had an ugly sweater contest and they raised the money for the various appliances for the program like a George Foreman grill and various kitchen appliances.  However, the most remarkable thing about this fundraiser for local PTSD victims is that instead of the forty gift cards they hoped to raise, they raised two thousand and five hundred cards.

America may very well be a war weary nation but it’s apparent by the enormous donations that is it not a veteran weary nation.   The veterans at the Northport V.A. and the staff were very grateful for all the donations.

PTSD BECOMING MORE ACCEPTED

“People suffered for decades from this terrible disorder and they never got treatment,” said Dr. Shebairo.  Drew Flemming is a Vietnam Veteran who has been through the Northport program two times.   “It’s a life saving program, I actually rented an apartment in Northport so I could be close to the hospital,” said Flemming.

The veterans on hand said in the vast majority of cases you’ll see PTSD appear sooner than later (when returning to civilian life).  At the Northport program they take vets of all ages from all wars and conflicts. Today they use effective evidence-based data and holistic methods like meditation, peer support and various specialists to help the men recover.

Noon said Vietnam was a peasant nation with mostly jungle fighting but a lot of these young soldiers had to endure urban fighting entirely.  “Vietnam Veterans put PTSD on the map but I’m so happy there is less of a stigma today and more people are educated about it,” said Noon.  A young Kings Park Veteran whose brother was about to be sent overseas said today’s soldiers are given education on the signs and symptoms of PTSD two to three times a year.  He said they talk about it alot, provide a lot of education about it.

When it comes to The Northport Veterans Hospital program, all veterans present said it was a place where miracles happen on a daily basis.  Some of those miracles happen while cooking in the kitchen! “Dr. Mendelson has helped hundreds and hundreds of PTSD Patients over 18 years,” said Noon.

Everyone in the room discussed those stark numbers of daily suicides by veterans but the Northport V.A., fellow veterans who have recovered from PTSD and Angels Without Faces are working to change that dark statistic.

Maketheconnection.net is an outstanding resource for Veterans, their Partners, Family & and Friends, those on Active Duty and Clinicians.  The non-profit provides dozens and dozens of resources and various forms of Support.   They share the following:

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF PTSD

“Driving down the roads in my home town, I found myself noticing every piece of debris avoiding every pothole,”

  • Feeling upset by things that remind you of what happened
  • Having nightmares, vivid memories, flashbacks of the event that make you feel like it’s happening all over again.
  • Feeling emotionally cut off from others
  • Feeling numb or losing interest in things you used to care about
  • Becoming depressed
  • Thinking you are always in danger
  • Feeling Anxious, jittery, or irritated
  • Experiences a sense of panic that something bad is about to happen
  • Having difficulty sleeping
  • Having trouble keeping your mind on one thing
  • Having a hard time relating to and getting along with your spouse, family or friends.

“When stress brought on flashbacks, I dealt with them by drinking them away, I considered it recreational drinking but really I was self-medicating.”

  • Frequently avoid places or things that remind you of what happened
  • Consistent drinking or use of drugs to numb your feelings
  • Consider harming yourself or others
  • Start working all the time to occupy your mind
  • Pull away from other people and become isolated

WHAT IS PTSD?

You feel on edge.  Nightmares keep coming back.  Sudden noises make you jump.  You’re staying at home more and more, could you have PSTD?

If you have experienced severe trauma or a life-threatening event, you may develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress, commonly known as post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, shell shock or combat stress.   Maybe you felt like your life or the lives of other were in danger or that you had no control over what was happening.  You may have witnessed people being injured or dying or you may have been physically harmed yourself.

  • Fireworks, loud noises
  • Factors can increase the likelihood of an event leading to PTSD
  • The intensity of the trauma
  • Being Hurt or losing a loved one
  • Being physically close to the traumatic event
  • Feeling you were not in control
  • Having a lack of support after the event

GET HELP

VA PTSD Program Locator

This site will allow you to search for PTSD programs located near you.  If you are eligible to receive care through the Veterans Health Administration, you and enroll in one of the VA’s PTSD treatment programs.

www2.va.gov/director/guide/ptsd

Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255 Confidential chat at VeteransCrisisLine.net  or text to 838255

You Might Also Like