Local resident reaches out to veterans
By FLORI MEEKS
As executive director of the PTSD Foundation of America, David Maulsby has been sharing a good news-bad news message with the community.
The northwest Harris County resident has been trying to get the word out about the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, but he wants people to understand help is available.
It's like any disease," he said. It can be treated. There is hope."
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can occur after a traumatic event. That event could be combat or military exposure, but anyone who has gone through a life-threatening event can develop PTSD, the foundation states.
Those who suffer from PTSD may relive their experiences in the form of nightmares or flashbacks. They might have difficulty sleeping, feel detached or struggle with anger, fear or confusion.
PTSD also can lead to other disorders including depression, addiction, memory problems or physical ailments.
Those with PTSD often struggle with marriage and relationships, parenting and work, Maulsby said. Some give way to despair. The foundation's Web site displays a long list of articles reporting suicides and murder-suicides involving veterans.
Currently, the foundation is striving to develop a network of churches, counselors and individuals who are willing to reach out to veterans dealing with PTSD and their families.
As part of that effort, the foundation partnered with Military Ministry, a division of Campus Crusade for Christ International, to present Bridges to Healing Workshops in Houston recently.
The program included information about PTSD, how to recognize its symptoms and how to start and lead PTSD care groups for military members and their families.
We want to integrate Bridges to Healing into existing ministries," said Capt. James Mehrmann, U.S. Navy, retired, who serves as Military Ministry's associate director for Houston and Southeast Texas. We're bridging the need to recognize symptoms and the need to heal. These are bridges that can't be walked alone."
The PTSD Foundation of America was established by Houston businessman Gene Birdwell. About four years ago, Birdwell heard Maj. Gen. Robert Dees, U.S. Army, retired, speak at Champions Forest Baptist Church about the military and what he described as a PTSD epidemic. Dees is the executive director of Military Ministry.
Hoping to raise money to support the ministry's efforts, Birdwell helped organize the Houston Freedom Fest, a Veteran's Day program.
Last year, Birdwell formed the foundation to support PTSD efforts year-round.
The foundation and Freedom Fest fall under the umbrella of Impact Houston, a nonprofit organization.
One of the foundation's primary goals is to enlist churches, organizations, military chapels, foundations, businesses and individuals in its effort to minister to military personnel and their families.
Churches need to step up here," Maulsby said. They could have veterans showing up with symptoms of PTSD. They need to be aware of what they are and how to help them."
Since he took his position in May, Maulsby's appreciation for veterans and their trials only has grown, he said.
I have looked into the eye of way too many homeless veterans," he said. Thirty-three percent of all homeless adults are veterans. I think that's an indictment of our systems that are in place to help our veterans. We've got to do a better job."
Military Ministries and PTSD Foundation of America are devoted to encouraging veterans' family members, too, Mehrmann said.
They suffer also," he said. We provide techniques at our workshop to comfort those family members."
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