After more than 150 days of uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, things have not improved for many of us. But one of the most impacted groups that is often overlooked in the media is combat veterans with PTSD, or as we call it, the unseen wounds of war.
Hyper-stressful environments, financial uncertainty and limitations brought on by the health crisis have hit veterans with PTSD especially hard while isolation and a lack of resources have spiked suicide among combat veterans to crisis levels.
“Suicide does not take a day off even during a pandemic” Michelle McMillen, Office Manager of the PTSD Foundation of America said. “In fact, there is concern that escalated fear and anxiety, coupled with skyrocketing unemployment related to COVID-19, will spark an increase in suicide.”
Those with pre-existing mental health concerns like PTSD are under even more pressure as COVID-19 continues to put them at risk, something the foundation has seen first-hand.
Adapting to the New Normal & Seeing the Impact on Veterans with PTSD
The PTSD Foundation of America exists to ensure that veterans get the care they need (and prevent suicide) at any time, but especially now while COVID-19 sparks difficulties for those suffering at unprecedented rates. Their local chapters offer ongoing support, while their residential facility, Camp Hope offers full-time care.
For veterans looking to heal while staying close to home, the foundation usually provides in-person, confidential group sessions with facilitators and fellow veterans located in their communities. But with the current pandemic, social distancing has changed how veterans are able to get help.
Now these local meetings are moving online, where the foundation has seen increased demand from veterans who need help now more than ever, while also facing decreased funds from their typical in-person fundraising events.
“Isolation is one of the symptoms of PTSD and it is extremely difficult to help a veteran who is struggling to reach out,” McMillen said. “Not being able to stay connected physically can lead to greater depression and despair.”
Adding to the chaos is the long lines veterans who are able to reach out for help will often face in VA hospitals overwhelmed and at capacity due to the pandemic, while non-profits who would usually help veterans and their families are also seeing a drop in donations and are unable to rely on traditional in-person volunteers.
This combination of increased need, a lack of funds and the requirement of social distancing has created a perfect storm for non-profits like the PTSD Foundation who serve these veterans.
Fundraising Gaps for Veteran Needs While Demand Increases
The PTSD Foundation which offers local chapter meetings already described and also houses at-risk veterans at their Houston facility, Camp Hope, has seen monetary donations dwindle while demand for help has risen significantly.
“The number of services the PTSD Foundation of America provides has increased dramatically during the pandemic. The Warrior and Family groups have moved to the online platform of Zoom, and the number of attendees in these meetings has gone up significantly,” McMillen said.
One such new group that the foundation planned to help in 2020 was for First Responders suffering from PTSD. Their first Zoom meeting reached the capacity of 40 participants within six minutes. The need is there but without funds to run these virtual meetings, the foundation is struggling to help everyone they can.
Typically, most of the foundation’s fundraisers occur within the last six months of the year, and without these funds, they expect that the lasting financial impact will be felt well past the end of 2020.
“Ultimately, the reduction in income will affect our ability to maintain our current levels of services provided to veterans in need,” McMillen said.
Meanwhile at their landmark facility Camp Hope, they have reached their highest capacity ever (90 veterans living onsite) while also working to enact safety measures to keep those residents safe from COVID-19 and treating their PTSD at the same time.
What You Can Do to Help Veterans Amidst COVID-19
We often get the question, “How can I help?” It’s a good one, and something that’s needed now more than ever. A great place to start is with in-kind donations to our Camp Hope facility where our residents needs continue to rise.
“For services provided at Camp Hope the cost per day, per Veteran is $142.52,” McMillen said. “This is broken down by counseling, travel, mentorships, nursing and supplies. This cost is heavily dependent on in-kind (items) donations we receive that allows us to support the veteran at no cost to the veteran or his family.”
Topping the list of items that Camp Hope needs right now are fresh food, such as dairy and produce, fuel cards to take the Veterans to their appointments and hygiene items, full-sized shampoo/conditioner, body wash and Gold Bond Medicated Powder.
For those outside of the Houston area, or anyone looking to make a big impact, monetary donations can be lifesaving for veterans in need that the foundation is helping every day.
Currently, Camp Hope is behind on donations by nearly $700K compared to last year, and that gap is only expected to widen as the pandemic continues. In the chapters across the U.S., these donation gaps are increasing exponentially each week as well.
Consider setting a monthly recurring donation (or even a one-time gift ) to continue to help veterans get the care they need. You can even choose to support your local veterans in the chapter nearest you.
Another option/ engage your company to become a corporate sponsor through our new virtual events or publicity programs. Our corporate sponsors are vital to our growth and our ability to help the veterans we serve.
However you choose to help, you can be assured that the money you provide goes straight to helping veterans and preventing suicides as the PTSD Foundation is an with 8% of all donations going straight to veterans and their families.
“There is no other location like Camp Hope in this country,” McMillen said. “This unique organization is saving veterans’ lives daily and reintegrating them as functioning members of society. PTSD Foundation of America cannot maintain Camp Hope without the generous support from caring funders.”