Nicole Brodeur featured "The Soldiers Project" in her Friday Seattle Times column. This some of what she said:
" Trisha Pearce, who lives in Stanwood, is starting a Northwest chapter of The Soldiers Project, a network of licensed mental-health counselors who offer free psychological treatment to active-duty soldiers, National Guard members, reserves, veterans and their families.
The nonprofit Soldiers Project was founded in 2004 by Los Angeles psychiatrist Judith Broder, who was moved to act after seeing a performance of monologues written by an active-duty Marine and featuring Iraq veterans.
Some 35 percent of Iraq War veterans seek counseling in the year they return. This year, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will spend $3 billion providing mental-health care to about 1 million veterans.
That helps, Pearce said, but the VA’s culture of bureaucracy alienates some veterans.
Others don’t want to get in any deeper with the military. Or they don’t want mental-health issues to be on their records. Or they were dishonorably discharged and aren’t eligible for benefits.
Then there’s the National Guard: "They’re not coming back to a military base," Pearce said. "They’re in Baghdad one day, and then they get off the plane and they’re home in Bellevue and their wives want them to clean the gutters.
"They are not going to come back and be who they were."
Before she can help them, Pearce must first build a network of psychotherapists willing to volunteer at least one hour a week to soldiers in need.
Once that’s done, clients could call or e-mail and, within 24 hours, receive a response from a clinician who will gauge their needs, then search the database of therapists.
On April 28, she will hold an informational session for therapists from 7 to 9 p.m. at University Lutheran Church in Seattle. (RSVP to email@example.com).
The project has given Pearce a new purpose and forced her to abandon the antiwar sentiment she embraced in the 1960s. "We should all be saying, ‘We’re here for you,’ and support veterans by making it simple for them to get psychiatric care," Pearce said. "It should be our responsibility, like paying taxes, to go out of our way and do something."
The Soldiers Project started in Los Angeles and has offshoots in Chicago and New York, and of course, Seattle. Check out the LA website at http://www.thesoldiersproject.org/ for more information, or better yet, if you’d like to start your own chapter in your town.