Retreat held in Oak Island for veterans struggling with suicidal thoughts or PTSD

OAK ISLAND, NC (WWAY) — An estimated 22 veterans commit suicide each day in the United States, with countless others facing daily mental struggles after years of combat.

The ‘American Family Got Your Six’ organization is setting out to address the issue, inviting dozens of veterans to a retreat in Oak Island.

“There is absolutely no better therapy for me than coming out to these events and helping my fellow brothers and sisters,” veteran Robert Lowers said.

Lowers says the get-togethers have changed the way he looks at seeking help.

“Many veterans think that they’re alone in their feelings and their beliefs,” Lowers added. “Whenever they come to these events, there’s always someone at one of these events that is having the same emotions.”

Organizer Debbie Mcelhinney says veterans like Lowers often feel forgotten and alone once they return from overseas.

“The one percent gets lost in the community once they’ve retired from the military,” Mcelhinney said. “But their service to country, their memories and the issues and the side effects and the injuries don’t go away.”

Ben Ruwan says he’s seen a big change in his life in the two years since attempting suicide for the fourth time in 2019, giving credit to the bonds he’s formed.

“When veterans get with other veterans there’s a sense of comfort,” Ruwan said. “We all have different backgrounds. We all have different stories and experiences in the military. But we’ve all been in a similar situation.”

Ruwan has taken on new challenges since getting help, currently in his second year of college as he looks to give back.

“I’m pursuing a degree in social work to be more effective, to work with other struggling veterans to show them they’re not alone,” Ruwan said. “We can get through this together.”

The retreat is made possible by donations. For more information on the retreat and how to donate, visit their website.

If you or someone you know needs help, the number for the National Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.

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