By Caitlin DeLuca
The Williamston Post
Honor for All will name a trail in Memorial Park to honor veterans and first responders lost to suicide due to post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury
Honor for All is a small, non-profit organization founded in Williamston whose goal is to eliminate the stigma surrounding post-traumatic stress.
“We are dedicated to bringing honor to invisible wounds,” said Thomas Mahoney, president of Honor for All. “Our immediate goal is to overcome the stigma associated with post-traumatic stress and to bring the friendlier civic term of injury and to drop the word disorder from public use.”
This group has not been idle in trying to achieve its goals.
Honor for All has been working to get June 27 named as Post-Traumatic Stress Injury Awareness Day.
So far, 32 states have recognized post-traumatic stress as an injury and named June 27 as Post-Traumatic Stress Injury Awareness Day.
“I‘m in contact with all other 18 states and four territories and I’m not ruling out getting all 50 states and four territories by the time June 27 this year rolls around,” said Mahoney. “I’m also in contact with the Senate and the House of Representatives and I’m working on getting President Obama and getting a proclamation from him.”
Post-traumatic stress is extremely undertreated in soldiers.
According to a study done by RAND, a nonprofit research organization, 50 percent of veterans do not seek treatment, and for the 50 percent who do, half of them get “minimally adequate” treatment.
“A strong soldier, man or woman, does not want to be called mentally disordered,” said Kent Hall, vice president of Honor for All, a Vietnam veteran and a Williamston city councilman. “There is such a stigma. For the longest time there was such a negative connotation for them to go get help from a psychiatrist because you’re taught to suck it up and fight through it.”
Veteran suicide has increased as well.
As reported by the Department of Veterans Affairs in its 2012 Suicide Data Report, as many as 5,000-8,000 veterans commit suicide. This makes the average about 22 veterans a day, which is up from their previous low of 18 veterans a year in 2007.
Hall understands the dangers of these statistics — he almost was one.
“In the 1980s, I almost was another victim. I had a beautiful wife, three great kids, and I just didn’t want to be here anymore,” said Hall.
Even close to 50 years after the Vietnam War, he still struggles with flashbacks and other post-traumatic stress related issues.
“I was getting an MRI on my wrist and…they put me in too far,” Hall said. “I was tied down but I was out of there because I was back trapped in a bunker in Vietnam just like that. I was there. I could smell it, I could feel it. It took me two weeks to get over it.”
Hall goes to group therapy but knows he is one of the few veterans that makes use of what is offered to him.
“Most [veterans] don’t realize all the programs provided to them that they can use and some don’t want to use them out of fear of the stigma,” said Hall.
That’s why ending the stigma and classifying post-traumatic stress as an injury and not a disorder is so important to Honor for All.
“We can overcome the stigma by getting everyone to recognize it’s an injury and stop using the d-word, because it’s not honorable, it’s dishonorable,” said Mahoney.
“In order to properly treat invisible wounds, the most important thing you can do is get there fast. We want to treat the injury before it becomes a disorder. Once it becomes a disorder, it can be a very dangerous, downward spiral to suicide which is pretty evident by the suicide rates we now hear about,” he said.
That acknowledgement is also why they are renaming the path in Williamston.
“This will be a place to go,” said Hall. “Because right now there is no place to honor someone lost to suicide. It’s as if a sniper bullet was delayed for years and sometimes decades to finally get that guy. So that’s why it’s important.”
Mahoney said, “We now have a stake in the ground saying this is where we started. … The first community resolution on recognizing post traumatic stress as an injury came out of Williamston,” he said.
Though the path renaming does not have a set date yet, Hall says that it will most likely not cost citizens any money.