Outreach for vets: What is PTSD?

Jon Varley will tell you this story is not about him. He was not drafted so he is not a U.S. military veteran. He’s retired. He is a charming man with smile wrinkles at the corners of his blue eyes that twinkle with a zest for living that he has shared with family and friends and students at a vocational school where he has taught. He and his wife moved here about four years ago from southern California because it is the center of where almost all of their children and grandchildren live.

This day, he wanted to talk about a friend of his, the late Matthew “Bob” Cresanto (1975-2018) who lived in East Palestine. Bob was a veteran. He joined the military post-9/11 because he felt he had to do something, Jon said. When he came home, he brought with him some issues, not the least of which was PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). Jon didn’t learn a lot about his young friend’s experiences, but he knows those experiences involved some bombings. The two men clicked when Jon stopped to look at a truck Bob had for sale.

“We talked for an hour and a half,” Jon said. They had a lot in common. He bought the truck and the friendship sweetened the deal. Jon thought Bob was happy, as did Bob’s wife and family. People who knew Bob said he was very good at everything he did. Jon was not expecting the phone call telling him that Bob’s wife had come home to find her husband in the garage. He had taken his own life.

Bob Cresanto is not the only veteran to end his own life. According to the Veterans Administration’s national suicide data report in 2018, suicide rates increased for veterans and nonveterans, making it a public health concern. The average daily number of suicides among veterans and active servicemen is 20. The suicide rate increased faster among veterans who had not used the VA Health Administration’s Health Care than among those who did.

Risk factors of suicidal behavior are prior suicide attempts, stressful life events and availability of lethal means, the VA advises. Protective factors are positive coping skills, feeling connected to other people, and access to mental health care. (For more information, visit www.mentalhealth.va.gov/suicide_prevention.)

The Wounded Warrior Project (https://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/programs/combat-stress-recovery-program) provides information that explains how to recognize and deal with PTSD, TBI and combat stress. The symptoms to notice are given in detail.

Jon Varley wanted to do something. In December he started with an idea that has grown into a PTSD Awareness Event which he’d like to see become an annual event. “It is not a fundraiser,” he said.

The event is being presented by The Links at Firestone Farms on June 27, the anniversary of the day that Bob Cresanto was buried. This event is to bring awareness and information about military post traumatic stress disorder to help veterans and their families. A full day of activities are planned including a golf outing, car and motorcycle cruise, entertainment, professionals in yoga, chiropractics, counseling, and therapy such as fly-fishing, and more. A dinner also will be held. Proceeds will go to the local vets and their families, distributed by American Legion Post 290. For more information about the event and the costs of all activities, contact Varley in East Palestine at 909-499-8076.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded in part by United Way of Northern Columbiana County.

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