Latifa Gaisi has seen the detrimental effects of post-traumatic stress disorder among her military peers since returning from Iraq in 2010.
“In February one of my close friends killed himself from PTSD,” said Gaisi on Thursday night as she took a sip of her drink as tobacco smoke filled the air at the Bay Ridge Post No. 157 American Legion on 78th Street – one of only seven in Brooklyn.
“He would have turned 26 on Aug. 21,” she said.
PTSD is a mental disorder, which is prevalent among soldiers and veterans dealing with long-term effects following a traumatic experience they witnessed during combat.
“I have … other friends who were institutionalized,” said Gaisi, a Brooklyn native whose family immigrated to Bay Ridge from Yemen in the mid-60s.
“It’s sad but it’s the reality of the situation,” she said.
Bay Ridge community leaders and business owners, including Rapid Realty CEO Anthony Lolli and Operation Warrior Wellness co-chairman Ed Schloeman gathered last week to spread the word on PTSD and veteran suicides at a luncheon at Vicolo Ristorante at 8530 Third Ave., in Bay Ridge.
“Every 65 minutes a veteran commits suicide,” said Schloeman, a marine Vietnam veteran. “Almost one per day commits suicide while in the act of duty.”
Schloeman said the number of suicides speak volumes that there is a need for services among veterans and on-duty military personnel and emergency responders.
OWW, part of the David Lynch Foundation, works to eliminate PTSD among veterans and emergency responders through Transcendental Meditation, a technique where the person sits quietly for about 20 minutes with their eyes closed, according to Shloeman and the organization’s website.
“Transcendental Meditation is a good way of helping the body handle stress,” Schloeman said. “It’s now being accepted into military organizations because of the $28 million in research that has been invested in meditation.”
But for a soldier or veteran to admit they need help is half the battle.
“A lot of men are just too proud to admit that they’re not okay,” Gaisi said. “Men are almost trained to not express their emotions and it’s so sad.”
Plans to get Brooklyn corporate leaders on board and help raise awareness on PTSD are in the works, but an official date for an event hasn’t been set at this time, said Lolli, the son of a World War II veteran.
“In Manhattan there’s a lot of celebrities that support the foundation,” Lolli said. “I said ‘where’s Brooklyn?’ We can serve as a left arm and both arms wash the face.”