Steamboat resident creates program to help with PTSD
November 8, 2010
Steamboat Springs — Bob Mullen knows war changes people.
An officer in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Vietnam War, the 20-year Steamboat Springs resident said that's part of the reason people who experience combat suffer from some degree of post-traumatic stress disorder.
The 67-year-old suffers from it himself, but a few weeks ago, something changed.
His wife, Marilyn, suggested that he let go of and mourn the person he was before serving in Vietnam. Mullen explained that in the decades since his return from war, he's been holding onto how he viewed himself before he saw combat duty. That person is someone who trusts others, doesn't feel isolated, and isn't ashamed or afraid.
"People who come back from war will not go back to their old selves," Mullen said Sunday from his Steamboat home. "They have changed from their experiences in combat, forever."
Mullen said a weight was lifted from his shoulders when he let go of "the old Bob." His recent experience is just one thing he would like to share with other veterans.
Mullen is giving a presentation about post-traumatic stress disorder at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Veterans Day, at United Methodist Church. It's intended to inform people about post-traumatic stress disorder, what it is, what it does and what people can do to help their family and friends who return from war.
The presentation also will allow Mullen to introduce Out of the Shadow, a program that would give veterans the tools they need to help treat post-traumatic stress disorder.
Mullen said regular meetings would begin with support group-style open discussions — and a mental health professional to facilitate the group or mediate, if needed — to allow veterans to interact with one another about anything. An educational piece would follow.
The groups would become communities, with veterans supporting one another, Mullen said. He said the idea is to make it easier for veterans to move their lives ahead.
"It's an action that's moving forward and not going backward," Mullen said. "We're not reliving the scary things that happened. What we're saying is you need to live with the guy you are now and make that person better."
Mullen said Steamboat would be the first location for Out of the Shadow, which he said would start immediately. He said it's a good location given that the closest Veterans Affairs facility is in Craig and more comprehensive services are farther away in Grand Junction and Denver.
Mullen intends to write about the results of the program in a book he's working on about post-traumatic stress disorder called "My Final Duty." He said the results also would be used to secure grant funding and other funds to expand Out of the Shadow nationally.
The ultimate goal, he said, is for Out of the Shadow to be available in every community in the country.
Mullen is excited about the potential.
"I believe this is a project that will work and people will get behind because they see value in it," he said.