The Benjamin O. Davis Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9191 in Killeen hosted a mental health forum Saturday.
The VFW, the Campaign to Change Direction and Give an Hour partnered for the day of service to promote dialogue on mental health, emotional suffering and access to care.
During the event, Lee Anna Davis spoke with more than 20 veterans about the importance of recognizing emotional suffering.
“There are five warning signs that may mean someone is in emotional pain and might need help,” Davis said.
The five warning signs include:
Personality changes — there may be a sudden or gradual changes in the way someone typically behaves.
Uncharacteristically angry, anxious, agitated or moody — there may be more frequent problems controlling temper.
Withdrawal or isolation from other people — someone who used to be socially engaged may pull away from family and friends stop taking part in activities that used to be enjoyable.
May neglect self-care and engage in risky behavior — there may be a change in the level of personal care or an act of poor judgment.
Overcome with hopelessness and overwhelmed by circumstances — a person who used to be optimistic may not find anything to be hopeful about.
Davis, 46, is retired from the Army after serving 22 years and suffers from a mental health illness.
“It was about 20 years ago that I realized something was wrong,” Davis, the VFW Post 9191 adjutant, said. “I buried myself in my work so I did not have to deal with what was going on.”
Davis, who is no stranger to the stigma that may come with admitting someone has a mental health illness, encouraged veterans to reach out to one another.
“If you notice one of the five signs of emotional suffering in yourself or in another person, reach out,” Davis said. “It is important to talk to someone as there are many veterans going through the same thing. I did not reach out for a long time because we’re taught to ‘suck it up and drive on’ in the Army.”
Davis’s words resonated with the veterans.
“I can relate to what Lee Anna said and now recognize the signs of emotional distress,” said Beverly Williams, 56, who is an Army veteran. “Living with emotional pain is tough — some days are good and others are bad.”
Williams, who has friends who struggle with depression, said she can use the tools taught in the class to recognize and help those who need to talk with someone.
“If we do not pay attention to the signs, we might blow it,” Williams said.
After the forum, those who attended the event were able to pick up free handouts with tips on mental health.
“The VFW is not just a canteen,” Davis said. “We do lots of things for the community and mental health care for our veterans is important to me.”