Event will focus on mental health of veterans

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The Union County Veterans Service Commission and Mental Health and Recovery Board of Union County are hosting an event to promote the mental health of veterans in the community.

Lifting Up Our Veterans will be held Thursday, August 8 at the Union County Veterans Service Office in the Board of Elections Meeting Room, 835 E. Fifth Street.

The event will feature a panel discussion and local resource tables, as well as a keynote speech by Dr. Chrisanne Gordon, founder and executive director of Resurrecting Lives Foundation.

Gordon, who is also a practicing doctor at Memorial Health, said promoting the mental health of veterans in Union County is beneficial to the community as a whole.

“If we lift up veterans a little, we lift up our community a lot so it’s really kind of like lifting ourselves up,” she said.

Gordon said her speech will focus on the brain health of veterans, specifically traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and the importance of the community response to it.

“We need to be vigilant to the struggles they’re having and do something more to help them that’s not just giving them a piece of paper with a number on it,” she said.

Holly Zweizig, Adult Systems of Care Director at the Mental Health and Recovery Board said the goals of the event are to advocate for veterans, raise awareness of the resources available to them and increase engagement from the community.

“It’s important to understand that some people might be dealing with a challenge that is not easily observed from the outside, so we need to educate ourselves and have compassion,” she said.

Although she did not serve in the military, Gordon said she understands what it’s like to undergo an injury or illness that feels isolating.

In the late 1990s, Gordon experienced a TBI that left her unable to speak for six weeks. She eventually made a full recovery, but she said she felt as though she needed to give back to veterans with similar experiences.

“I wanted to help be their voice because I had been in their shoes – and in their brain,” she said.

About a decade later, after a close friend lost her son in Iraq, Gordon worked at the Veterans Administration Outpatient Clinic in Columbus, where she performed screenings on veterans with TBI.

She said she will share these personal experiences with attendees with the hope of encouraging them to step up on behalf of veterans.

“I’m going to ask everyone to think about a day when you can’t speak, can’t think, can’t even remember anything and imagine how crazy you would feel,” Gordon said.

Zweizig said the event will offer another story of encouragement from a local couple, Kara and Jason Gibson.

During his military service, he experienced a combat injury that was later diagnosed as a TBI. Zweizig said their story could provide hope for others who may feel like they don’t have anyone to relate to.

“Hearing their story of recovery, perseverance and strength – it’s really nothing short of a miracle,” she said.

Dale Bartow, Executive Director of the Union County Veterans Service Commission, said he feels these stories will also provide an example of the resources that are available to veterans.

He said the Veterans Service Commission refers veterans to Veterans Affairs health centers in Columbus and Marion for individual, group and family counseling. However, there is immediate crisis response in Union County offered by Maryhaven.

“We just want people to be aware that there is help out there, they just need to be willing to ask,” Bartow said.

Between reaching out to servicemembers and civilians alike, Gordon said she hopes the event will set a precedent for how communities can come together to help veterans.

“I really believe we can be a leader in Ohio, if not the nation, in caring for those who cared for us,” she said.

Those interested can register for the free event at mhrbuc.org/events.



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