According to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, nearly 17 former active-duty members of the military take their own lives every day. But a new program is helping them find reasons to live.
Titus Battle is an Army veteran from Brooklyn, New York. Most of his life was rooted in years of abuse, homelessness, and an attempted suicide. "So I just simply took the gun, pointed it to my heart, and pulled the trigger at point blank range," Battle says, "it ricocheted all around my body and just destroyed my internal organs. It took a 6-hour surgery to save my life."
Experts say Battle was suffering from something called moral injury. Dr. Rita Brock is one of the leading experts on the subject. "PTSD is usually regarded as something based in fear and moral injury is your conscience," she says, "you start to doubt yourself, doubt your values, doubt your society."
Dr. Brock created a program through Volunteers of America called "Resilience Strength Training," designed specifically for veterans. Battle was part of the first group and now he helps lead it. "In war, there's the main issue of having to take a life," he says, "that's just devastating."
The five-day intensive program encourages veterans to share their traumatic experiences with other veterans through storytelling, writing, and art. "Titus in his first group told his own suicide attempt story," Dr. Brock says, "he said, 'I'm making a pledge today not to die by my own hand and I'm inviting anybody who wants to join to me to raise their hand,' and all of them raised their hands."
There are weeks of follow up after. So far, 95 veterans have participated.Battle says, "No one has taken their life. No one has returned to drugs or alcoholism or anything of self-destructive nature, not even I."
Resilience Strength Training sessions for veterans take place in Los Angeles, New York, and Washington. Dr. Brock says you don't have to have served in the military to experience moral injury. She says sex assault survivors, doctors, caretakers of people living with Alzheimer's, and many others can experience it.