Heroes programs combats veteran PTSD
The Heroes to Heroes Journey to Israel team during their trip in March 2016. Two soldiers who have been through the Heroes to Heroes program will speak at the university on Tuesday, March 21.
Twenty veterans take their lives each day in the US, according to a statistic from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Rikki Silver, double major in family studies and human development and special education and rehabilitation, was shocked when she learned this.
“It’s shocking and it makes me sad because they’re fighting for our country and they come back and there’s not enough resources to help them with the trauma,” Silver said.
Silver is a campus fellow at the University of Arizona for the Jewish National Fund, a non-profit organization that supports the future of Israel. The organization teamed up with Heroes to Heroes to help lower the number of veteran suicides and give another route to recovery for veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Heroes to Heroes is an organization that sends American veterans with PTSD and Moral Injuries to Israel to talk to Israeli veterans as well as gain spiritual and emotional feelings in Israel,” Silver said.
Spirituality is one way that Veterans with PTSD can cope and recover after experiencing trauma. According to the VA website, those with PTSD often experience a disconnect with spirituality from feelings of depression and loneliness, which leads to loss of faith.
By rekindling spirituality, veterans can, according to the website, “reduce behavioral risks (e.g. less drinking or smoking), expand social support through involvement in spiritual communities, enhance coping skills… and activate ‘relaxation response’ through prayer or meditation.”
Heroes to Heroes rebuilds faith through visits to holy sites in Israel, the creation of a support group of American and Israeli veterans and daily activities such as planting trees or playing sports.
In order to bring awareness to the program and expand their reach of help, JNF is working with Heroes to Heroes to create pilot events on college campuses. If they’re successful, they’ll make bigger events.
UA will host an event on March 21. Two American vets who have already gone through the program will be speaking to various groups, including the Jewish Medical Student Association at noon and Hillel at 5 p.m., about their experiences in Israel, meeting the IDF soldiers and their challenges with PTSD before and after the trip.
After going to Israel four times, Silver understands how a trip like this could help people.
“It’s important to me because of what I’ve gained from Israel,” Silver said. “There’s just so much people can [gain from Israel]. This program allows that to happen for the American vets which is really special.”
If people know anyone who suffers with PTSD or if they think this program will help someone they know, then they can recommend people or apply to go on the trip at https://heroestoheroes.org/application/.
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