Helping veterans cope with mental health struggles – Tampa, Florida

Tampa, Florida 2022-05-24 12:22:01 –

The story of Bill Ferraro is very unique. But it is horribly well known that he cannot ask for help.

“I couldn’t even go out and interact with people,” Ferraro said. “I knew I was withdrawn from everything, but I didn’t really care. I care what I’m thinking, what someone else is thinking. I didn’t do it. I just wanted to be alone. “

In public, military members and veterans are often lionized and respected as one large abstract group. We rarely know about their particular journey, the journey to the limits of physical fitness, or the trauma. There is no easy way to cover them all.

Sherman Gillum is a retired Marine and senior leader of the National Mental Illness Family Alliance.

He admits that putting everything in one federal agency creates many gaps. From the top down, VA provides comprehensive services to veterans seeking care.

“Many of them aren’t really looking at what they can use. They just go together, go to the hospital, have their sessions at the hospital, and then they’re as you know. “Let me get out of this place,” Gillum said.

Meanwhile, guitar-like programs for Vets are everywhere. They are the product of nonprofits and individuals seeking to give back to those who serve. Jim Kearney operates a branch in Richmond, Virginia.

“They see us not only as people who teach them the skills to be guitar players, but also as people they talk to, open their hearts to, and feel at ease,” Kearney said.

After a 10-year shutdown, Ferraro turned to help and began taking medication for depression. He was assigned a therapy dog ​​named Venmo and became comfortable again in public. Then he found a guitar.

“When we play, it’s like I release all my emotions, and it only frees me,” Ferraro said.

Johnny Jones served the Marines. For him, the guitar relieves the physical pain of a broken back on his back 15 years ago. He says he has peace for an hour.

Today, Ferraro sits in his session to learn the instrument and find out that he is still feeling the pain and burden of his service. He knows his story and his life is never simple. But he also knows the importance of breaking through it.

According to Veteran Secretary Denis McDonough, as of February 2021, the pandemic caused 19.7 million scheduled cancellations, delays, or transfers. A year after the pandemic, the backlog of compensation and pension claims almost tripled to 212,000. As a direct result of the pandemic, more than 10,300 veterans and 131 veterans have died.

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