A call for help: aiding veterans battling PTSD

A call for help
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - The statistics are staggering. On average, 22 veterans commit suicide every day.

According to the PTSD Foundation of America, one in three returning American troops are diagnosed with serious PTSD symptoms. Less than 40% seek help.

"It's just not acceptable," Allen Mullins said. "How they got to that point...I can understand that."

Mullins, a Region 8 veteran, is like many other service members. When he came home, he had trouble reintegrating into civilian life.

"It's not just really one thing, it's a culmination of several different things," Mullins said.

It started to take its toll.

"It's just life in general. I lost my job," Mullins explained. "Bills just stacking up, stacking up."

Last December, he neared his breaking point.

"I didn't know what to do. I was hurting," Mullins said. "When you're so far down that I was, there's no light at the end of the tunnel. You look for it and you look for it and when you don't see it, what can you do? What can you do? You start thinking all kinds of crazy things."

Mullins still has difficulty opening up to just anyone about his past.

"Y'know, I don't talk about my military," he told Region 8 News.

He did give us documents from his time in the military though and told us that he served our country in the Army, Army Reserve and National Guard.

In 1982, at the age of 19, he joined the Army to escape a tough childhood.

Physically, he was strong. He ranked in the top percentile of the Army Physical Readiness Tests.

When he returned home though, he felt isolated. He was mentally weak.

"I was, you know, I was in bad shape," Mullins said.

On the verge of giving up, he took a leap of faith and contacted the PTSD Foundation of America in Houston.

"I said I just need somebody to talk to," Mullins said. "They said we'll be right there."

It changed his life.

"They called me, it was about midnight," David Gordy said. "They said hey, there's a veteran in Walnut Ridge that's in crisis and needs some help."

Gordy, who started the PTSD Foundation of America Chapter in Jonesboro last year, was nervous. It was the first time he'd responded to a veteran in crisis.

"We just kind of talked through it, what are you feeling?" Gordy said. "And he really felt like he was alone, that he had nobody...which a lot of veterans do."

Gordy said isolation is a big part of PTSD.

Mullins was overwhelmed, but this time, in a good way.

"They did this much for me and they really don't know me?" Mullins said. "And it's like they said, you're a veteran. We're brothers. This is the group, this is what we do."

The first priority was to get Mullins healthy. They took him to the John J. Pershing Medical Center in Poplar Bluff.

"I was even skinnier than I am now," Mullins said. "Blood pressure was off the charts. I stayed there for three days."

When he came home, Gordy said the change was incredible.

"It was a completely different person," Gordy said. "Just to see him alive every day makes it worth it."

His problems did not just disappear; but now, he doesn't fight the battle alone.

"Since I got with the group, my life just increased exponentially," Mullins said. "I'm so much better off."

"He's refocused and he wants to move on," Gordy said.

His goal now is to work alongside Gordy to help other veterans in need.

"If you're a veteran, you're not alone," Gordy said. "You don't have to do what you think you have to do to quit thinking about it or get by it or get over it."

"It's going to get better and I hope that we can get larger and larger," Mullins said "If it didn't work, I wouldn't be here."

Helping Mullins get back on his feet wasn't just the work of one person.

Gordy said since starting up the PTSD Foundation Chapter in Jonesboro, he meets new people each week who are willing to help veterans.

Some offer free oil changes. Others help with utilities.

Unfortunately though, some veterans wind up in trouble with the law before they can find the help they need.

"They come back home and life's not the same for them," Craighead County Sheriff Marty Boyd said. "We're dealing with a lot of veterans that have had four, five or six deployments."

Last year, the sheriff's department created a veteran's diversion court at the jail in an effort to help reintegrate veterans into civilian life.

"It's a terrible situation to be in," Sheriff Boyd said.

The 2nd Judicial District Veteran's Treatment Program targets problems specific to veterans.

If a veteran is arrested in Craighead County, they can be evaluated and placed into the treatment program instead of being put behind bars.

Other veterans mentor those in the lengthy, rigorous program.

"Hopefully we find help for that person in ways other than just the diversion program," Sheriff Boyd said. "Our goal is to get them involved in the community programs that are out there," Boyd said.

For more information on the program, contact the Craighead County Sheriff's Department at (870) 933-4551.

If you are a veteran in crisis, call the PTSD Foundation of America Veteran Crisis Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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