by Nicole Livingston
Military life and civilian life are two very different cultures.
For those who have mental health issues it can be an added strain to make the transition.
In honor of Veterans Day, the Veterans Resource Center and Active Minds are co-sponsoring an event featuring three speakers who will talk about mental health topics related to the veteran and student population.
According to http://www.va.gov, the website for The United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Day, originally “Armistice Day,” was a holiday dedicated to the day during World War I when fighting ceased between the Allied Nations and Germany on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.
The original purpose was to set aside a day to work toward world peace and remember those who gave their lives in World War I. In 1954, the word “Armistice” was replaced with “Veterans” in light of World War II and in order to lift up veterans of all wars.
Nicole Stearman, president of Active Minds, said that the event is to educate the EWU population about how mental health affects veterans, and it is geared toward non-veterans and veterans alike.
Stearman and the rest of the club wanted not only to educate students about the importance of mental health for veterans, but to also help people understand that not all veterans have mental illnesses.
“One of our guest speakers asked if he could change the topic and not talk about mental health because he didn’t want people to think that every veteran has mental health [issues],” said Stearman.
Raven Frady, event coordinator for Active Minds, spearheaded the event. Frady served in the Air Force as a photographer and her entire family has been involved with the military. During the first meeting of the club, the topic of planning an event for Veterans Day came up and, at the time, she was the only veteran in the group.
She volunteered to coordinate with the Veterans Resource Center to put something together. Frady said the event is important to her because the topic of mental health is an important issue for both groups of people.
“Veterans aren’t like your average college student,” said Frady. “They have a completely different set of skills. They come from a completely different place. The veterans center is all about giving veterans a place and making them feel comfortable on campus. Active Minds is about giving people with mental health issues a comfortable place on campus.”
Attending the event are three speakers. Topics include: education to non-veteran students about the different aspects of the military and different mental health issues that veterans face, transitioning from military life to campus life, the cultural changes that go with it and the importance of veterans receiving mental health treatment and continuing that treatment when they leave the military.
The event will take place in the PUB in room 206 on, Nov. 13 from 1-4 p.m.
“We felt that it was really important to have it right after the day we get off for Veterans Day because it will still be fresh in their minds and it will be a reminder, ‘Why do you have the day off of school? Why is this a holiday? It’s because of veterans and these are their issues,’” said Frady.
“The better any person, any American, is educated on veterans and the things they’ve gone through and the issues they maintain, I think that’s one of the most patriotic things you can do. Be aware of veterans, not just stick a sticker on your car.”
Frady said that this event is important to her not only as a club member, but also as a veteran.
“It’s so much easier to say, ‘Look, I got shot in the arm,’ Whereas mental health is one of those things that is so easily overlooked because it’s not on the outside,” said Frady.
“There [were] multiple times when I was called to come and take pictures of a scene where there [were] attempted suicides. Even people who aren’t deployed, it’s really common for people to say ‘Oh, they have PTSD.’ But, that’s not the only issue people face.”
Frady said the members of Active Minds want to stress to those in attendance at the event that not all veterans suffer from PTSD.
“There’s a lot of different issues that veterans have. I was never deployed but in the course of my career I saw some pretty horrific things. I had to go take pictures of car accidents and other things like child abuse cases, and that was just my career field. There’s a lot of different times when you can have events happen to you and you don’t necessarily have to be deployed.”
Senior lecturer for the department of psychology, Alan Basham, is one of the speakers on the list for the event.
A veteran of the Navy, Basham started his service as a hospital corpsman and spent half of his service in the Marine Corps as a hospital corpsman there. His speaking topic will cover the transition from military life to campus life.
He said when he was asked by Frady to speak at the event he was happy to accept the invitation.
“I think what they’re doing matters,” said Basham “We have over 600 veterans on campus and sometimes people misrepresent them or don’t understand what they’re going through as they try to adjust from military life to campus life, especially if they’ve been in combat, there’s likelihood that they are experiencing some emotional consequences of that.”
“It doesn’t mean they’re psychologically disturbed, it doesn’t mean that we need to be afraid of them at all. I had those same reactions when I was in combat myself, but it does mean that they need to be understood.”
Basham wants students to gain understanding and compassion from his topic.
“There’s a general human tendency to distrust or to shy away from what we don’t understand or don’t know,” said Basham.
“It’s a survival mechanism. We, basically, are afraid of what is other than ourselves. With understanding comes the ability to bond and build community and engage with those who might have a different take on life or a different background than our own.”
By Nicole Livingston