Army veteran finds light in his recovery with mental health workshop


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a significant or extreme emotional or psychological response to a shocking or dangerous or traumatic event. It affects approximately seven percent of the United States population and nearly 12-18 percent of combat veterans deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Christian Clausen)

ORLANDO, Fla. — Wounded Warrior Project offers intense all-male, all-female, or all-couples multi-day mental health workshops for veterans coping with the invisible wounds of war.

These help warriors and their families maintain healthy, meaningful relationships while pursuing life goals — free from the stigmas associated with mental health issues.

“I’ve been in a place where hope doesn’t exist,” said Joseph Willis, U.S. Army veteran from Titusville, Florida. “I’ve been blown up three times during my deployments, and now I struggle with post-traumatic stress and a traumatic brain injury. I attended the mental health workshop because I wanted to find the hope I lost.”

Combat veterans typically isolate themselves from society, often making these workshops the first time they become active with their peers and communities. Through the generous support of donors, WWP empowers warriors in their recoveries through these specialized mental health programs and services — tailored to each warrior’s specific needs and free of charge.

These workshops provide safe, private environments for warriors to express themselves and share their combat experiences. WWP staff use special activities in a recovery model that allows warriors to be vulnerable to the unknown and identify and work through anxieties together.

“I was given a mask canvas and told to paint what I portray to the world on the outside,” Joey said. “Then, I was to paint who I really am on the inside of the mask. It was a powerful experience because I was forced to see myself. I painted a clown on the outside, but on the inside I painted a sunrise.”

By the end, warriors share lessons learned from the activities that impacted their personal struggles most and set achievable goals for their recoveries.

“I realized there is light inside me,” Joey said. “That light is my wife, my kids, and the Holy Spirit. I can achieve recovery with them by my side and with the tools I learned at the workshop. I’ll do it for me and to show my brothers and sisters it’s possible.”

Watch the video below to see an example of a WWP mental health workshop:


Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Listen Live