Colorado

Apr 30, 2011 8:00 PM by Matt Stafford

Faith community addressing PTSD issues

Even with all of the resources of the military, taking care of all of the soldiers coming home with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a big task. Local experts say we have 70,000 active duty or retired military suffering from P.T.S.D. in the Pikes Peak region.

"Talking about the divorce rate among soldiers being at least twice the national average. Everyday five, either active duty or retired, soldiers are trying to commit suicide, so the need is tremendous," says Mike Chapman, who works with the Military Ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ on Fort Carson.

In Colorado Springs, local experts only see problems with P.T.S.D. growing; and the issues extend past the post.

"The fact that 70 percent of soldiers and families who attend church, or other faith groups, do so off-post means it is a community issue," says Chapman.

Local faith leaders are taking charge; 20 to 30 churches and others spent all day talking about ways to help at Woodmen Valley Chapel.

"I served for 20 years, and now I find myself in a church setting where our church is very interested in reaching out to the same military community that we're part of in Colorado Springs." says Jeff Kozyra, a conference attendee who works for New Life Church.

Hernando Pena has a clear view of what they're up against; after two deployments from Fort Carson, his stress came out in the form of anger and alcohol use.

"This has been a three year stinch that we're talking about as far as suffering through Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder," says Pena, a veteran of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. "It almost broke us apart."

Once he realized he needed help, Pena and his wife, Mari, say they saw how widespread of an issue P.T.S.D. really is locally. They say all of the local service providers were swamped.

"Appointments we're hard to come by." says Mari Pena. She says finally they found steady help, and more stability, for Hernando.

For Hernando, his faith and support from others are what he's able to now tell people is what worked for him. He hopes churches get the message and offer more counseling and outreach for soldiers.

"Churches have a lot more resources than they realize," says Chapman. He adds that the best part about churches helping out is that they don't have to do much differently -- he says they're already set up to help. Right now they want church leaders keeping an eye out in their congregations, so they can put those resources to work.

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