A cross country motorcycle ride, 6,500 miles from San Francisco to New Orleans to New York, tells the story and powerfully raises awareness of veteran suicide - an epidemic claiming 22 veterans each day.
Recently, I attended a screening of the documentary “Project 22” with my family, including my son Jesse. Jesse is a West Point graduate who served a total of 27 months in Iraq and had his own difficulty with reintegration and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This film, featuring two veterans who have suffered the ravages of PTSD was both profound and troubling. The title represents the 22 veterans that commit suicide EVERY DAY, not including the 40-50 daily suicide attempts! This film records their 22 day motorcycle trip from California to New York. At each of their stops, they met with Veterans who shared their experiences of suffering from PTSD. They heard the stories of loss and suicide, but also heard the stories of those who were able to use the support of their friends and fellow veterans, as well as enlightened health professionals, to overcome this “invisible wound.” I learned a great deal about PTSD while watching this film: most profoundly how unless you have experienced the horrors of war, you cannot truly understand and how the power and bond within the veteran community is so incredibly strong. The message was clear that you are not alone, that others share your struggles, and they are out there ready, willing, and able to provide you with all the support you need.
Sadly, as was very apparent through the stories told in the film, we as a country and as a society have placed these young men and women in harm’s way, with no plan to deal with their reintegration into society. We gave them months and months of instruction on how to become warriors, but only a week of classes on reintegration. Our heroes return from the depths of hell to a world where they lack the support, the purpose and the clarity that had been a part of their lives for so long.
This film deals with the difficulties these men and women face as well as some truly exciting therapies that have shown success. None of these therapies include the use of large doses of antidepressants, anti-anxiety medications and anti-psychotic medications, which so many veterans express have provided them with little to no benefit. Astonishingly though, almost all of these medications are being used without official approval by the FDA, commonly referred to as “off label.”
One of the therapies featured in Project 22 is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, or HBOT, which is also considered "off label" for the treatment of TBI/PTSD. Although, in several recent clinical studies, patients have had remarkable, and statistically significant, improvements in their symptoms. As Dr. Paul Harch eloquently states in the film, there is not only hope for those suffering from PTSD, THERE IS TREATMENT. We at Hyperbaric Medical Solutions have treated several veterans with PTSD, including my son. We have seen remarkable results, allowing many to return to a world where they can be productive, happy and optimistic about their futures. We are proud to treat veterans with safe and effective HBOT.
Thank you to Dan Egbert and Doc King for bringing us through your personal journey and mission to raise awareness of veteran suicide.
Henry K. Prince, M.D.