Help for Invisible Wounds

Shame, stigma, fear of jeopardizing their careers. All can keep people from getting help for a mental disorder. The reluctance to seek treatment is even greater in the military community.

Talking openly about mental illness can help eliminate the stigma associated with it and can lead to more people getting help.

To continue this important conversation, the County is sponsoring Serving Those Who Serve, a wellness fair for veterans, active duty military and their families.

The event will take place Tuesday, March 4 from 5:30 to 8 p.m. at the San Diego Air and Space Museum in Balboa Park. Refreshments and free childcare will be provided. All participants will receive a complimentary pass to the museum. You can register here.

“It will be an evening filled with open dialogue and meaningful conversation about the importance of overall wellness,” said County Supervisor Ron Roberts, who will be giving welcoming remarks. “Industry leaders will share their personal stories of hope and resilience while encouraging veterans, active service members and their families to get help for a mental health disorder.”

The main speaker will be John Roberts, executive vice president of the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), a veterans’ service organization that offers programs, service and events for wounded veterans.

A panel discussion will follow featuring representatives from organizations who work with veterans and Giovanny Penate, a veteran of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.

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A 2013 survey revealed 75 percent of WWP alumni live with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), 74 percent experience anxiety and 69 percent reported suffering from depression. Symptoms of PTSD can include recurring nightmares about traumatic events, hesitation to discuss them or difficulty sleeping or performing normal tasks.

“Anyone can experience a mental health disorder. Being able to talk about it is extremely important and does help to eliminate stigma,” said Alfredo Aguirre, director of County Health and Human Service Agency’ (HHSA) Behavioral Health Services. “Members of the military community are not alone. There are services to help them cope with their invisible wounds of war.”

Serving Those Who Serve is hosted by HHSA, in partnership with the California Mental Health Services Authority and the National Alliance on Mental Illness San Diego.

José A. Álvarez is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact