The number of veterans who commit suicide has increased to an average of 17 per day according to the 2019 National Suicide Prevention Annual Report. A group of U.S. Congress representatives held a roundtable forum on Dec. 11 at Capitol Hill, looking at the possibilities of getting faith-based spiritual programs to address the suicide epidemic among veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The report was prepared by the Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The total number of veteran suicides exceed 6,000 each year from 2008 to 2017, indicating that more than 60,000 veterans who have served their country committed suicide in those 10 years.
The report also counted an average of 15.9 veteran suicides per day in 2005, and this number was increased to 18.8 in 2017. The report did a comparison between the suicide number between the veterans and non-veterans, and found in 2017 the suicide rate of veterans was 1.5 times the rate of non-veterans.
“We have been throwing millions of dollars into the military suicide issue, and many other military behavior health issues. The statistics keep getting worse and worse. We are not doing something right. We need to integrate faith-based solutions,” commented retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Bob Dees after the forum. Dees was also the former vice director for operational plans and interoperability for the Department of Defense (DOD).
He also asserted that the faith-based solutions are incredibly important to veterans and the military. “I have found as a senior military commander over the many years that is what really works. We have got to heal not just heart and soul, but the very spirit of each one of our men and women wearing our nation’s uniform,” he stated.
The bipartisan forum was hosted by Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-Missouri), and joined by several other lawmakers. Staff from the Mental Health Caucus, Veteran Affairs Committee, and Armed Services Committee participated in the discussion.
Hartzler told The Epoch Times there were veteran families in her district impacted by veterans who committed suicide because of PTSD, which made her feel the current available programs provided to the veterans are not sufficient.
Hartzler then started her own journey looking for “programs that are actually working and helping bring lasting healing and hope to our soldiers, sailors, and marines without just automatically prescribing them opioids,” stated Hartzler.
She said she was amazed by her findings of already existing alternative programs that could effectively help veterans suffering from PTSD. She decided to bring some of her colleagues to hear how these programs work, so that they can also utilize these programs to deal with the similar issues in their own districts.
Three faith-based veteran PTSD programs with successful track records were invited to present their stories and past experiences to the forum. They were Mighty Oaks Foundation, Reboot Recovery, and Operation Restored Warrior.
“A spiritual wound of a war needs a spiritual solution,” said Chad Robichaux, the founder of Mighty Oaks Foundation. He expressed after the forum that “I walked away very encouraged seeing that we have Congressional leaders who share our passion for our warriors, and also share our ideas.”
Robichaux was a Special Operations Force Reconnaissance Marine who finished eight deployments operated by the Joint Special Operations Command Task Force in Afghanistan.
Robichaux developed PTSD during his service in Marine Corps, and eventually lost his position in the Marine Corps. He retired from the military, but he continued to suffer from PTSD.
After he left the military, Robichaux tried every possible way dealing with his own PTSD. He even tried to focus himself in martial arts, hoping the new challenge would make him get rid of his emotional problems. He became the national champion of pro MMX (mix martial arts) in 2010. However, regardless of what and how he tried, his PTSD symptoms continued.
He finally separated from his wife and found himself at edge of losing his marriage. He started thinking of suicide and tried to convince himself that his family would be better off without him.
Robichaux eventually reconnected with his church through the help of his wife and was healed though his spiritual practice. He learned from his own experiences and started using the same approach to help other veterans by founding the Mighty Oaks Foundation.
Since 2011, the success of Mighty Oaks programs has helped more than 2,600 veterans recover from serious PTSD. “As commander in chief, I extend my personal gratitude to you for your distinguished and steadfast service to our country,” stated President Trump in a personal letter to Robichaux.
Sitting at the forum was also Mike Lindell, the inventor and CEO of MyPillow. Lindell was also the founder of Lindell Foundation, a faith-based organization helping addicts.
Lindell was addicted to crack cocaine and alcohol in his earlier life. He said that addictions would cause wounds similar to the ones caused by combat traumas. He was invited to closely watch through how the Warrior program helped the veterans. He gave his conclusion to the forum: “there is nothing better on this planet than [the faith-based PTSD assistance program] to help veterans suffering PTSD.”
A report presented to the forum was an article from the Military Psychology Journal published by Taylor & Francis. The report was based on the studies conducted by Dr. Jenny Owens of Reboot Recovery (RR). The studies were based on the findings from the performances of 254 adults treated by one of RR’s program called Reboot Combat Recovery.
The studies found participants with “improvement for pain interference, fatigue, sleep disturbance, anxiety and depressive symptoms, and social participation. Improvement was uniform except that veterans benefited more than currently serving military personnel with respect to anxiety symptoms.”
“We need more awareness of these programs within the DOD as well as VA,” stated Congresswoman Hartzler to The Epoch Times after the forum, adding that the veterans suffering from PTSD shall be presented with the options of these faith-based treatment programs.