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Project Sanctuary provides hope and healing for military families

When a service member transitions home, to civilian life and to family, the adjustments can be overwhelming for everyone. Project Sanctuary offers those families a place to heal and to reconnect, in a safe and healthy environment.

Heather Ehle founded Project Sanctuary in 2007, recognizing the need to help those military families overcome their challenges. Through retreats that include therapeutic recreation, counseling, and classes, the service member has the opportunity to reconnect not only with family but quite often with himself or herself as well.

Geneva Templeton Moore, Chief Operating Officer at Project Sanctuary, points out that military families have a higher rate of divorce, higher rates of domestic abuse, and extremely higher rates of suicides. In fact, she says, the “numbers are shockingly high.” Project Sanctuary addresses the need to bring those numbers down and to understand how to make things better in the service member’s home, by serving the whole family.

Those families come from 49 states and from duty stations across the world. Project Sanctuary hosts retreats in eight states, serving each region of the country. The organization serves both active duty and prior service military families through their two-year program called the ART of Project Sanctuary.

ART is an acronym for Assessing, Reconnecting, and Thriving.

First, they assess the family’s specific needs to determine whether they are in immediate crisis and need assistance from other partners across the country or whether they can benefit from Project Sanctuary’s program.

Second, they reconnect the service member to himself or herself and to the family and, ultimately, to the community. The organization hosts six-day retreats that include counseling, classes, and therapeutic recreation time, using simple activities like art, bowling, horseback riding, and rafting to help families discover ways to communicate and ways to handle potentially stressful situations. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has become their most popular class.

Third, Project Sanctuary helps families continue to thrive by keeping in touch throughout the two-year follow-up period. Moore says that the organization has a “90% success rate of families staying together” after they complete the ART of Project Sanctuary program.

Project Sanctuary has been partnered with Veteran’s Passport to Hope since the beginning. VP2H founder, Shane Schmutz, was an early Project Sanctuary board member. Geneva Templeton Moore says that the “support of VP2H has been tremendous.” Retreats are expensive but as funding allows, Project Sanctuary continues to increase the number of retreats each year, to meet the growing needs, and VP2H has been a key factor in their ability to do just that. The grants they have received from VP2H have funded entire retreats for military families who need hope and healing.

Check out the Today Show’s recent story on Project Sanctuary!

Mental Health Month promotes awareness and education

May has been designated as the official Mental Health Month. At Veteran’s Passport to Hope, of course, we focus on mental health awareness every month. We understand, as veterans and veteran advocates, that mental health is a constant challenge and a constant goal.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has posted some significant numbers in regard to mental health and mental illness among Americans:

  • Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year.
  • Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S.—9.8 million, or 4.0%—experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.
  • 6.9% of adults in the U.S.—16 million—had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.
  • 18.1% of adults in the U.S. experienced an anxiety disorder such as posttraumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and specific phobias.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) affects veterans who may experience symptoms such as hypervigilance, sleeplessness, and an inability to function after returning to civilian life. The Veterans Administration reports that between 11% and 30% of veterans suffer from PTSD, depending on their era of service:

  • Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF): About 11-20 out of every 100 Veterans (or between 11-20%) who served in OIF or OEF have PTSD in a given year.
  • Gulf War (Desert Storm): About 12 out of every 100 Gulf War Veterans (or 12%) have PTSD in a given year.
  • Vietnam War: About 15 out of every 100 Vietnam Veterans (or 15%) were currently diagnosed with PTSD at the time of the most recent study in the late 1980s, the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS). It is estimated that about 30 out of every 100 (or 30%) of Vietnam Veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime.

VP2H recognizes the need to promote awareness of mental health issues throughout the year. We have compiled a vetted list of resources available to veterans who are struggling with the goal of mental health. If you are experiencing the symptoms of PTSD or need assistance with navigating through life’s challenges, please contact us.