PARK CITY — Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and suicidal thoughts have haunted many military veterans who live in our communities. This week, six Utah veterans got much-needed help through a local program called Heroes Haven.
The program helps veterans heal as they work out problems together. The six veterans are discovering that healing in Park City with the first all-women's group.
"This program essentially gives you your camaraderie back," Jessica Patten said, right after unclipping from a zip wire.
KSL-TV caught up with the female veterans at the National Ability Center, where they were learning to trust each other and themselves at a ropes course. Patten was energized after finishing the course with fellow veterans who cheered her on. She said this is where she needs to be this week for her own mental health.
"I suffer from PTSD, and encapsulated in that, I do have some military sexual trauma," she said.
Patten served four tours in Iraq as a combat trucker, taking bombs, bullets and supplies to troops on the front line.
"Doing tactical things that we weren't prepared for, necessarily, mentally or emotionally," she said. Constantly feeling the stress of war.
"It's a mode of survival," she said. "When you're in that mode of survival, it's really digging deep and realizing that you may not come home."
When she did make it home, she was not the same person.
"I felt like I was numb, emotionally numb," Patten said. "I couldn't understand why."
Her husband told her she needed help.
"It was affecting our marriage. It was affecting every relationship I had. It affected everything I did," she said.
A friend steered her towards Heroes Haven, a peer-to-peer support program for veterans experiencing PTSD and suicidal thoughts. It's also a healing retreat. The veterans who are participating have trauma from combat deployments, and some have military sexual trauma from assaults during service and before.
"These traumas have been negatively impacting their lives for years," said Heroes Haven co-founder Frank DeVito.
The veterans are healing by opening up about their trauma with each other and counselors.
"They can focus on it and heal from the actual trauma and not from the multitude of symptoms that come because of the trauma," said DeVito. "They really are here to heal their trauma and to change for the better."
Tiffany Lohman, an Army veteran, experienced military sexual trauma and wants to get a better perspective on her mental health and feel grounded again. She likes the fact that she is participating in an all-women's group.
"With females, we can bond better," she said. "I can relate better, and I can empathize with them," the veteran said.
"You're an automatic nurturer," she said about women. "You want to fix everybody else before you fix yourself, and it's super important to recognize that you are no good to anybody else until you're whole inside."
The women said it has already been helping, and giving them coping tools they can use when they are back at home.
"I feel invigorated, and more at peace, and I feel calm," said Lohman.
These women got help because they asked for help, and they want other veterans to know there's nothing wrong with that.
For more information go to theheroeshaven.com.