Veteran caretakers take creative approaches to mental health

Veteran caretakers take creative approaches to mental health
A free mental health first aid class was offered to vets and their families on Friday.
Carolyn Furdek, author of "Locked In." (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Carolyn Furdek, author of "Locked In." (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - While traveling around the country promoting her book "Locked-In," Carolyn Furdek has taken a lot of pictures.

Some are powerful, showing her as she told her story to large crowds. Others, like one of her son promoting her work while wearing an astronaut costume, are more lighthearted.

To Furdek, the photos have been a reminder that, at times, it's hard to tell just what someone's going through by looking at them.

"In the middle of a mission, that was no different than any other, I just shut down," Furdek said.

That's when Furdek, deployed by the Army to Afghanistan, said she begin to struggle with her mental health.

"There's nothing more humbling, or horrifying, for your commander to step in front of you and ask you for your weapon," Furdek said.

Furdek said she was hospitalized, medically discharged and began working another job in Washington, D.C.

"I started to shut down there as well, continued to have problems, continued to find myself back in the valley of Afghanistan," Furdek said.

So, she got help. Veterans assistance services connected her with doctors and helped her transition her career.

She credited their willingness to use creative solutions, instead of stopping at standard medical treatments, as the reason she recovered - which is a method others helping veterans in Louisville have hoped will be effective for them too.

The Service Member Veteran Family Task Force offered a free mental health first aid class to veterans and their families Thursday, focused on the prevention of suicide and substance abuse.

"I was amazed at the number of signs that I learned about that could've prevented my brother's death," organizer Sarah Jemison said.

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It's not a typical first aid course, but one that, thanks to an inventive mind, may save the life of someone fighting an unseen battle.

'"If you think outside the box and you're persistent, and you seek the help, you don't give up, you'll get your answers," Furdek said.

Furdek is now using the creative approach to care that helped her as a physical therapist at the VA Medical Center in Louisville. 

Those interested in mental health first aid courses can contact Sarah Jemison at 502-589-8915 X 1284 or by email at Sarah.Jemison@Centerstone.org.

SMVF Task Force members said another mental health first aid course will be available in June.

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