On March 10, 2016, at 1800 hours, The San Francisco Bay Area Stack attended the first screening of Project 22 in the Sonoma County Area. The event was attended by a variety of different veteran organizations and health advocacy agencies. Sonoma County Department of Health Services, NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), American Foundation on Suicide Prevention, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the North Bay Veteran Center were all present with personnel and materials. It was an amazing collaboration between the different groups involved with mental illness and veterans. There were many veterans from different generations attending as well; old friends reuniting and new friends being made. The topic of the night was detecting and preventing veteran suicide and it is a difficult topic to discuss. This movie screening was a major step towards breaking down the barriers and shedding light on the need for a greater understanding of veteran issues. The movie, Project 22, was created by Dan Egbert and Doc King. Veteran suicide is a huge issue that needs to be addressed by every service and organization involved with helping veterans. Project 22 follows a motorcycle ride from West Coast to East Coast with their ride beginning in San Francisco and ending in New York.
Once they arrived in San Francisco, they sought out other veterans who had discovered tools to help them deal with PTSD and transitioning back to civilian life. They meet several veterans who shared their techniques. Many veterans took to learning how to sail as it requires you to work together as a team to properly operate the sail boat which is similar to relying on your battle buddies in the military. Some veterans had taken up pottery as a soothing way to work through what they were feeling. Pottery was not the only art form used to express themselves as others used painting and custom motorcycle designing. During their ride, they worked to bring media attention to veteran suicide with specific motorcycle rides starting in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, Los Angeles’s event did not go as planned and they had to began to worry that their mission was failing. Dan and Doc regrouped, continuing their journey east and meeting with several more veterans. Dan and Doc encountered several organizations working to understand and heal traumatic brain injuries and post traumatic stress.
The movie was emotional to watch as even one veteran suicide is too many. It was mentioned in the documentary that one of the most difficult hurdles veterans encounter is the transition back to the civilian sector. Veterans are no longer around the same group of men and women with which they served. They must deal with their issues differently then they had prior. For some veterans, this can create a feeling of hopelessness and that is a dangerous spot for anyone to be in, especially those who have experienced traumatic events. Speak up and Speak out. If you or someone you know is having a hard time, reach out and give someone a call.
There are numerous resources that can help:
Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255
Peer Warmline Connection: 707-565-4466
IAVA Rapid Response Referral Program (RRRP): 1-855-917-2743
Veteran Combat Call Center: 1-877-927-8387
Military One-Source: 1-800-342-9647
This documentary and more information can be found here.