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Updated: Sep 28, 2022

While the world health crisis has been focused on the COVID pandemic for two years, other healthcare headlines have taken a back seat. The Community Foundation of N.C. East is shining a spotlight on a health crisis that has been looming in the shadows for far too long, namely the alarmingly increasing suicide rates of U.S. veterans.

Recent reports from Veteran Affairs estimate that approximately 18 veterans take their own life every day, and sadly, this number is likely higher when considering the accuracy of reporting. The Department also found veterans were 1.5 times more likely to die by suicide than the average non-veteran adult.

The Community Foundation of NC East is taking every opportunity to bring new life and meaning to their “Living Well and Doing Good” ethos. The Foundation recently launched a program to support U.S. Veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury. A North Carolina Senate Bill 442 has appropriated funding for Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for North Carolina Veterans.

The program results from a 6-year journey spearheaded by CEO Melissa Spain. “I have had the honor of working alongside several incredibly brilliant, passionate, diligent, and highly informed individuals who have all invested a tremendous amount of time, effort, and financial resources in bringing us to this moment. This opportunity we have been given will result in life-saving changes for many of our North Carolina Veterans,” explains Spain.

“We are honored that the General Assembly, along with our Governor, has entrusted those funds to our Foundation, and we will work diligently to get as many of our Veterans into this program as we can identify,” says Spain. “The suicide rate amongst our nation’s Veterans is at a historical high, and this is not acceptable. We are hugely committed to helping our Veterans who fight for our freedoms and America that we all know and love and receive the help they deserve when returning from combat.”

What is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, or HBOT, is a treatment used to speed up healing in which tissues are starved for oxygen, including in the brain. It’s a holistic treatment that does not involve loading up on prescribed medications. Instead, the therapy involves entering a special chamber to breathe in pure oxygen in air pressure levels 1.5 to 3 times higher than average. The goal is to fill the blood with enough oxygen to repair tissues and restore normal body function.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is characterized by brain activity and microstructural integrity changes. Evidence shows that hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) induces neuroplasticity, reduces inflammation in the brain, and therefore helps with PTSD.

The Veterans Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Treatment and Recovery Act came into effect in 2019. It allows certain medical professionals to administer or prescribe hyperbaric oxygen therapy to veterans suffering from traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder treatment (PSTD).

The Benefits of Hyperbaric Therapy

Several benefits arise from the use of Hyperbaric therapy. One of the benefits entails a reduction of suicidal idealization. In addition, the treatment administration helps veterans suffering from TBI and PSTD manage suicidal feelings, enabling them to have a positive outlook on life.

Other health improvements that result from the administration of hyperbaric therapy include reduced anxiety and depression. The treatment also improves intelligence, memory, quality of life, attention, and the amount of blood that flows to the brain.

"Our military men and women spend many difficult months, if not years, in hostile environments, away from their loved ones, to preserve the freedom we enjoy here in America,” says Spain. "Unfortunately, so many veterans return from their mentally scarred experiences, lose all hope, and often take their own lives. This tragedy is one of the most heartbreaking trends in our country, and it simply does not receive the attention it deserves. Even those veterans who don’t fall victim to their own despair must still cope with nightmares and other sensory overloads as they relive their horrifying experiences," says Spain.

"We look forward to being able to share many life-changing success stories of our veterans and their families, and we hope you will consider being a part of this opportunity to invest in the lives of our men and women who have served,” says Spain.

If you know a Veteran who would like to be a recipient of this therapy, please go to the website or call 252-756-8549 and help us provide them with the treatment they deserve so that they can be afforded a happy and healthy quality of life, which they so richly deserve.

For more information on The Community Foundation of NC East please visit the website.


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