A retired U.S. Army veteran working to raise awareness about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is bringing his message to Fort Knox on Friday.
Sergeant First Class Stephen Meyers is walking across the country as part of a campaign to alert the public to mental health issues facing veterans and many others.
His speech with Fort Knox coincides as the U.S. Army Human Resources Command is stepping up efforts to promote physical and mental well-being through it's "Risk Reduction Program." That effort is an ongoing year-long campaign taking a prevention-focused approach to issues like PTSD and subsquent dangers, like suicide.
Military messaging has greatly shifted in recent years to acknowlege the mental health issues its soldiers may face returning from active combat. However, Meyers said superiors still could do more to lead through example.
"During my 22 years of service...in none of those 22 years did my first line supervisor, my first sergeant, my sergeant major, my commander, did any of them get help for behavioral health, mental health, whatever you want to call it," Meyers said.
The retired veteran's own story demonstrates some of the issues soldiers can face when facing mental health issues.
Meyers said, prior to 2008, soldiers could risk losing security clearance if they admitted they were going through certain issues, disincentivizing them from getting help. Despite policy changes, he said there are still legal implications for admiting someone is dealing with PTSD.
"If you're a soldier and you say, 'Hey, I'm depressed,' they take your weapon way. Or maybe they take away your ammunition and everybody knows it. And then there's this stigma and, now, you're no longer part of the group. You're kind of like the ostracized person," Meyers said.
He likened the situation some soldiers are facing to issues facing some law enforcement agencies across the country, especially in cities like New York, where suicide is an increasing problem.
So far, on his cross-country walk, Meyers has gotten the chance to hear several relevent stories, and speak with leaders to learn more about what can be done to encourage those struggling with mental health issues to seek help.
Meyers will continue to make his cross-country trek Monday as he passes through Bowling Green on his way to Nashville. A full calendar of his planned stops is available here.
For anyone dealing with or who has a loved one going through depression or suicidal thoughts, help is available, with the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).