LANSING, Mich. — The 2008 recession proved devastating not only to the economy, but American lives after suicide numbers spiked in its wake. For veterans at high risk of unemployment and mental illness, experts say we need greater efforts to support the population. Amanda Brandeis found one nonprofit using a unique form of therapy to support veterans and their caregivers during this time.
Candra Murphy an Air Force Veteran shared that “All I have to do is relax. Being able to get out of my head and literally not have to do anything for an hour, is amazing.”
In a pool heated to match the human temperature, veterans are transported to a state of calm.
Elizabeth Berg, Executive Director of Wave Academy explained that “It’s often equated to if you were to go all the way back to being the womb, and that safety and serenity of being in the watery environment.”
But like many veterans sent to San Diego’s Wave Academy, Candra Murphy had her reservations.
“The first session, I was tense pretty much all the way through.”
The Air Force veteran served for six years and deployed once to Balad, Iraq.
She says the base was a constant target for mortar attacks.
“Just not knowing what’s going to happen, because you settle into a routine and then things happen.”
When she reintegrated back into civilian life, every day tasks like driving, were a challenge.
“It just depends on the day. More often than not my symptoms tend to show up as an anxiety, hyper-vigilance, general distrust of crowds. I tend to self-isolate a lot.”
Through counseling, Murphy learned she was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
She began the aquatic therapy program before COVID-19, but like many services it was put on hold.
“For the first time ever we have a waitlist of people who would like to have our therapy program.”
Dr. Mark Jesinoski, Clinical Psychologist
“I’m hearing from a lot of veterans they are feeling more isolated, feeling less supported, exactly what they need they’re not getting right now.”
Clinical Psychologist Dr. Mark Jesinoski works with combat veterans – many who were already dealing with heightened physical and emotional pain.
“What I notice is every single thing they experience as normal people is completely and totally magnified by what’s happening.”
A report from the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute indicated that for every 5% increase in the national unemployment rate, as many as 550 veterans a year could be lost to suicide, and 20,000 more could suffer from substance abuse disorders.
But rather focus on predictions, Dr. Jesinoski says society should seek proactive solutions.
“I think it’s about being much smarter and much wiser in how we allocate that money in being a much more interconnected system of services.”
Between the government and community nonprofits like Wave Academy.
“What I would say to a veteran if they are struggling, don’t do that pride thing, that isolation thing, don’t do the I ain’t got time to bleed thing. Be willing to take a breath and overcome that resistance and asking for help.”
And for society, lifting our veterans now could mean changing the statistics of tomorrow.
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