It was laughter, smiles, and reminiscing for local veterans at Safe Haven Wellness Recovery Center’s second annual luncheon held Friday. Numerous veterans from all branches of the military came to show their support for an event that brings awareness to the mental illnesses that many of our veterans face every day.
Veteran Paul Belleci, a representative with AMVETS Post 50, helped put together Friday’s luncheon.
“I have lost friends in the military to suicide and felt there is a need for this event,” Belleci said. “We also want to thank our veterans.”
According to one study in JAMA Psychiatry, nearly one in four active duty members showed signs of a mental health condition. Postraumatic Stress Disorder, Depression, and Traumatic Brain Injury are the three primary health concerns that many of our active duty members and veterans have faced and continue to suffer with.
Deana Fleming, Deputy Director of Clinical Services for the adult division at Safe Haven, helped serve food to all the veterans in attendance.
“The veterans are considered a target population for us to reach out to when it comes to mental illness,” said Fleming. “This is an outreach to veterans to let them know that we are always in support of them…”
“We want them to know that we are here, there are services available, and that we honor them and respect them.”
Although organizers had hoped to see more veterans attend, those present enjoyed the day’s event and the good company.
Robert Gates, an Army veteran, said he was “hoping to see more of the guys, but it was still a pretty nice.”
Chaz Franklin, an 82nd Airborne Army veteran and the treasurer for the Tribute Wall at the Colusa Veterans Memorial Park, came out to show his support to his fellow veterans.
“Our veterans group has exploded in membership in the past five years. We’re so involved in the community now that we are recognized,” said Franklin.
Franklin spoke about the Veterans Tribute Wall progress.
“We are going to fill the sixth wall tribute wall this week,” he said. “The seventh wall will be coming up in probably the next month. It is a pretty hallowed place; it’s very nice. It’s not just for those that have died, it is for everybody who has served.”
Franklin said for those wanting to pay their respects to the many veterans in our community the Tribute Wall is a great place to start.
Other veterans in attendance at Friday’s event were Marine veteran Bill Tanner, and Army veterans John Loudon and Bill Whitney, who all agreed that the luncheon was very pleasant.
The Colusa City Fire Department, Sav-Mor, Market Street Grill, and Colusa County Behavioral Health were among several local businesses and organizations in the community that showed their support by donating some of the essentials needed for the luncheon.
Support for Veterans and mental illness is just one of the many programs that Safe Haven offers.
“Safe Haven has been here for eight years and we do lots of things,” said Valarie Sterling, Peer Support Specialist. “We have therapy sessions, group sessions, and peer run group sessions. We help people in the community find homes and jobs.”
Although there is a stigma attached to veterans with mental illness, this event is helping to break down those stereotypes in hopes of bringing more awareness and relief to those suffering from the effects of mental illness, organizers said. ■