Who better to help another person with their problems than one who has the same or similar problems?
Two local veterans, Steven Canter and Dan Stone, both of whom suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, have stepped up to provide that help in the Bishop area.
The two decided to start a local group for veterans suffering from PTSD offering them a place to turn, in a group setting, to discuss their problems stemming from the disorder.
The first meeting of the group called “Veterans Helping Veterans” was held on April 21, Patriots Day. The meetings are open to veterans of all ages and service branches in an anonymous and non-threatening setting.
The meetings are held every Monday at 5:30 p.m. at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars building at 484 Short St. in Bishop. Although, the VFW is not associated with the group, it is allowing the group to use a room there.
According to internet sources, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that 830,000 Vietnam War veterans suffered symptoms of PTSD.
When most people hear of PTSD, they think of the young service members just recently returning from war. But the fact is, that there are many vets suffering from this syndrome who have been out of the service for many years, such as Vietnam vets.
Some of the effects of combat seem to never go away for some veterans, according to Canter, and can resurface after many years of being out of a war.
“There’s not really anything like this available almost anywhere,” said Canter, “and even at the Veterans Administration it’s like 300 miles in any direction to get to one. And most of them are filled with counselors and people that work for the VA. So, they’re taking notes about what we say and stuff and a lot of vets don’t trust the government and people writing down what comes out of their mouth.”
The two men believe that a veteran with PTSD may feel more comfortable and understood by talking about what they are going through and the problems they are experiencing with not only another vet, but also with those that have PTSD.
“The understanding of a vet that has had combat experience, or enough to get PTSD, has a better understanding of a veteran that has the same problems and same symptoms,” Canter said. “We’re able to accept their sharing and sometimes our sharing helps another veteran to make things better in their own life just by listening to another vet talk about their complications in living. Or what he has to do to cope or understand or even just go around society.”
Canter went on to say that there are other factors that come in to play, such as the economy and the lack of jobs. “The retired or retiring veterans sometimes have too much time on their hands and that’s when, at times, the bad thoughts or feelings come out of us that have been suppressed for years.”
The men said that PTSD can be anything from withdrawing to violent outbursts that can often lead to trouble with law enforcement. They are trying to provide some of the newer veterans a place to go where they can share and be understood by veterans with similar problems.
Stone said that so far they have about 11 attendees with one to two more vets attending each week.
“If you listen to the news, a lot of it things connected to PTSD come up,” said Stone. “A lot of people don’t like others to know that this is a mark that they have. They don’t like to share it with everybody.
“I think it’s important for them to understand that we observe the anonymity of our membership. It’s (anonymity) important to them, and Steve and I, we take liberties with our own disclosures letting people know about our PTSD. But that’s just to get it across and we’re really looking for the young guys. Some of us from Vietnam are getting a little long in the tooth. But we already have some Vietnam vets that have helped our group tremendously.”
They said they are hoping to service the whole Owens Valley, but it takes more volunteers because each group meeting needs someone to lead the group.
For more information on joining the group, contact Steven Canter at (714) 404-1169 or (714) 381-4620 or Dan Stone at (760) 920-8950.