“God does not waste a tragedy,” Leslie Mayne said over the phone from Virginia when I asked her about the passing of her son, Army Private First Class Kyle Farr.
“His death changed the entire trajectory of my life and my family.”
Farr had returned from two tours in Iraq suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
After a suicide attempt in 2008, he was admitted for inpatient treatment at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center; then he was moved to the Perry Point Veterans Administration Medical Center in Maryland for specialized mental health care.
Unbeknownst to Mayne, who lives in Gig Harbor, Washington, her son was discharged from the Maryland VA facility on March 6, 2009 with instructions to self-medicate.
“We didn’t know; he wasn’t ready; he couldn’t self-medicate; he was on so many medicines,” she explained.
“I would have moved heaven and earth to be there when he was released.”
A day later, he was found dead from an overdose in a Baltimore hotel.
“I grieved for my son and was profoundly disturbed and saddened by the lack of safety net resources for veterans like Kyle.”
The Month and Day for PTSD Awareness
June is National PTSD month, and today is National PTSD Awareness Day.
Established by Congress in 2010 after Senator Kent Conrad of North Dakota proposed to honor Army National Guard Staff Sergeant Joe Biel, who had returned from Iraq suffering from PTSD only to take his own life.
“This effort is about awareness, assuring our troops … that it’s okay to come forward and say they need help,” Conrad wrote in a press release.
Today – June 27th – was selected because it was Biel’s birthday.
A Few Facts to Consider
Acknowledging that PTSD statistics are a moving target, a lengthy 2014 Rand study noted that at least 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from PTSD and/or depression. It also stated that approximately 50 percent of those suffering from PTSD do not seek treatment, and that out of this number only half of them get “minimally adequate” treatment.
A sample of 600 veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan found that 14 percent suffer from PTSD; 39 percent engage in alcohol abuse; three percent use drugs; and an undetermined percentage struggle with depression.
The study also noted that Army veterans have the highest percentage (67%) of PTSD cases.
Permission to Start Dreaming
Emerging from her tremendous personal loss and determined to create a safety net for veterans and first responders, Mayne vowed to not let her son’s death be in vain. In 2010 she founded the Permission to Start Dreaming (PTSD) Foundation.
“The foundation is a catalyst for resources and relationships,” Mayne emphasized, “and it discovers and helps veterans and first responders throughout the Pacific Northwest access to strength-based programs and effective long-term solutions to transform Post-Traumatic Stress into Post-Traumatic Growth.”
Mayne’s desire to engage the community’s awareness to the tragic consequences when war fighters are not supported in the after care, the newly formed foundation hosted its first RACE for a Soldier in 2011 in Gig Harbor.
“It was a first start in fostering an ‘epidemic of hope,’” a phrase Mayne quotes from her friend Robert Vera, who is also the author of A Warrior’s Faith. Mayne continued, “and then just like that 1100 runners showed up.”
Mayne contends that it is incumbent upon citizens to be a part of the paradigm shift in how we respond to the urgent needs of those who serve. She remains confident that we can ignite a community with a call to action.
In an effort to extend the scope of ignition, the foundation has added an annual SWING for a Soldier (golf), PULL for a Soldier (sheet shooting) and Prayer Breakfast.
The illumination also extends into Monthly Huddle meetings, “Mind, Body and Spirit” Workshops, and award funding for post-traumatic growth retreats.
“The dream is to have the foundation’s own Northwest Passage Wellness Retreat Center in the Pacific Northwest,” Mayne added.
More than $300,000 has been raised to support these programs that offer life-changing success for veterans, first responders and their families.
Mayne pointed out that the funding and donations the foundation receives lets veterans and first responders attend a number of great programs like the Boulder Crest Retreat.
Marking the Meaning of Today
As the Permission to Start Dreaming Foundation works to improve the lives of veterans, first responders and their families, the words of Saudi McVea make today – National PTSD Awareness Day – all the more important.
“As a mother and military member who has lost her son, an Army veteran, to suicide because of PTSD and the trauma of war, the Permission to Start Dreaming Foundation has given me hope that there are real opportunities for Post-Traumatic Growth and healing here in the Pacific Northwest; that this organization has found real alternative programs and follow-on care to give tools to combat hopelessness and to make positive changes in veterans and first responders; and that when I reached out after my loss, with open arms of compassion they brought me in and gave me hope.”
The Permission to Start Dreaming Foundation is committed to offering better resources, relationships and responses for those struggling with PTS.
Gaining more compassionate allies every day, the foundation’s mission is to smooth the way to excellent mental health and wellness services and programs.
“We owe that much and more to those who serve and protect our communities and country,” concluded Mayne.
This is the point of the Permission to Start Dreaming Foundation and today.