Unseen battles: Ohio veterans speak up about mental health

Unseen battles: Ohio veterans speak up about mental health
24.02.2024

Ohio is 5th in the nation for the number of veterans calling our state home. Many of our veterans are waging a battle we cannot see, but the fighting is happening all around us.

Every service member is unique, and so is their experience in our armed forces. But no matter the branch of service, more and more veterans are speaking out about mental health challenges.

It’s an important conversation and a personal mission that can be life-saving, not only for themselves but for other veterans as well.

“It’s okay to talk about your mental health, regardless of if you’re in uniform or out of uniform,” said Jason Hughes, an Army National Guard Veteran and Veteran Liaison for the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation. “Talk about your mental health.”

ABC 6 met a group of Central Ohio Veterans who are talking about their mental health. Each is on a journey that started from a different place.

“I got out, and they told me I had PTSD,” said Army Veteran Matthew Mankins.

“I had a drinking problem, and I got a DUI,” said Navy Veteran Steve Looney.

“It’s difficult to go out into the world every day and not feel that same level of pride that you get when you serve in the military,” said Marine Veteran Todd Lee.

“When I tried finding my answers at the end of a bottle and that wasn’t working, that’s when I started realizing it was affecting people in my life, family members,” said Marine Veteran Luke Poljak. “It was time for me to do something different.”

Together, they’re on a journey to do something different and life-changing.

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They gather at Stockhands Horses for Healing in Delaware. It’s equine therapy and much more.

“I’m hoping they find that peace within the storm that’s happening in their lives or at least a lull in it,” said Marine Veteran Tim Funk, who co-founded Stockhands.

It’s not a typical riding program. There is horsemanship but also fellowship.

It’s a program that allows veterans to connect with other veterans.

“You’re not alone,” said Luke Poljak. “If I can go through it, so can you. If I can get better, so can you.”

Together, they battle trauma and stigmas, ultimately finding themselves once again in service – to each other.

“I have veterans all the time saying ‘you’re saving my life’,” said Tim Funk, becoming emotional. “We’re saving each other’s lives.”

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