MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The sacrifices that many make for our country doesn’t just stop after serving. These sacrifices include mental health.
One Memphis organization is using laughter and camaraderie to prevent veteran suicide.
“Life is kind of surreal today. If you’d ask me four years ago what I’d be doing with my life, this definitely probably would not have been the answer,” said Brad Bell with Irreverent Warriors Memphis. Having served 10 years in the Marine Corps, Bell found himself at a crossroads.
“When I got out of the Marine Corps in 2015, I did not transition well. I struggled. I spent about three years homeless. In 2018, I almost became a statistic,” said Bell.
The statistic is that 22 veterans commit suicide every single day. “I don’t know if I’ve met a veteran in the last 10 years that hasn’t been impacted by suicide somehow,” said Jason Lederfine, Irreverent Warriors member.
Lederfine is a veteran who advocates for veteran mental health resources. “We’ve lost more Vietnam veterans from suicide than were actually killed in the conflict itself,” said Lederfine.
To combat the issue, they have turned to another outlet. “In 2019, I started changing my life around. Irreverent Warriors was here,” said Bell.
Irreverent Warriors is an organization bringing veterans together through comradery and humor. “Laughter is a good medicine. We believe that because we can relate to one another, we can laugh through some of our pains and some of our trials and tribulations,” said Bell. “Irreverent Warriors got me out of isolation.”
Bell is now the Memphis chapter’s Coordinator bringing comradery through one of their biggest events, the Silkies Hike. “We’re using humor to make people smile. It makes people look forward to an event. When you have nothing to look forward to, you start going to dark places,” said Lederfine.
“I understand that sometimes it’s hard to raise that white flag and ask for help because we’re conditioned to be tough and hold things in, but it’s okay to ask for help,” said Bell. It is help that can come in more ways than one.