When we talk about #VeteranMentalHealth, we often want to shy away from the painful realities that exist. We know that they’re there, but we also want to erase them away like words written in sand.

What would it be like if we were able to have a real conversation about the gritty, dirty, real aspects of the work that is done to try to help a veteran come back from a place of suffering? That’s what this film does. It’s a short film written and directed by the son of a veteran who is also a mental health counselor at the Department of Veterans Affairs; a veteran who is experiencing his own struggles and battling his own demons while helping other veterans battle theirs.

Take some time to check this out:


What you see here is reality. Those who are in this profession carry the weight of our own memories. For a while, we carry the weight of those who we serve. And it is a service, one that we sometimes provide gladly, and sometimes one that we find hard to provide because of the own weight we carry. I have written before about the concept of a wounded healer, and it’s a very real thing; but let’s focus on the healer part as much, or more, than we do on the wounded part.

This isn’t a plea for sympathy for those of us who choose to come along side of a veteran. This is our choice, to help them along their journey. It’s a desire to explain, in as honest detail as possible, the impact of what we’re doing on ourselves. The impact on those who care about us. It’s also an attempt to explain the message at the end of the film, “I’m doing this because I can” is one that is keeps us going.

We are all focused on our individual lives, on those that we care about. We only see the short films of others lives, just like others only see clips and snippets of ours. Sometimes it’s helpful to take a look behind the scenes, to consider the impact of the work that each of us do.

There is a point that the therapist makes in this film that I tell people often: the only one who can truly help us is ourselves. We can support each other, come alongside each other, but ultimately the decision and the burden of our own wellness is on us.

Don’t Avoid Help

If you’re a veteran, reach out. Talk to those who are standing there, ready to support you. Let’s not let our burdens, our anger, our fear get in the way of our own journey towards peace in our lives. If you’re a family member of a veteran, or one that cares for them, understand that the consequences of not taking action are greater than the effort it takes to intervene. Let’s help them get to a place where someone can support.

And, as always, care for each other. It’s not the only way to get through life, but it’s the best way I’ve been able to figure out.

The Rest of the Story

The characters in the film…they’re all real people. The counselor, the veterans, the spouse, the supervisor. And they’re all doing well…the veterans have progressed, gone back to school, reinvented themselves to be something more than what they seem to be in the film. The counselor continues to do what he does…I spoke to him yesterday, as a matter of fact!

We do what we do because we can, and because we care.

The Head Space and Timing Blog is supported by the Colorado Veterans Health and Wellness Agency, a 501(c)3 Nonprofit in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The goal of the CVHWA is to provide military culturally competent mental health counseling to veterans and their spouses, regardless of characterization of discharge, time of service, or era of service. Our vision is to assist veterans to identify and remove barriers to their mental, physical, emotional, and behavioral wellness. For questions or inquiries, contact us!

Duane France

Duane K. L. France is a combat veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a mental health counselor practicing in the state of Colorado. Do you want to join the conversation regarding veteran mental health? Share, like, and comment. Read Duane's previous posts and follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn. Keep the conversation about #veteranmentalhealth going.


Timothy Wienecke · February 13, 2018 at 2:09 pm

I always struggle with how much of those struggles we should speak to. I want to be transparent in my humanity, needs, and acknowledge the hard work it has taken to put my own demons to sleep, but I worry that clients may see themselves as a burden to me or others like us. The work is hard, both to be a clinician and to come back from my own struggles, but nothing worth doing is easy. Thanks for sharing this, as always, you know how to get a conversation going. Thank you.

    Duane France · February 14, 2018 at 6:41 pm

    There are a lot of different schools of thought on this, to be sure. Do we, as mental health professionals, present a “flawless” face to our clients? Or do we show that we, too, are human and have learned to manage the same things that our clients have dealt with. Not being open and honest about our own struggles could perpetuate the stigma against seeking help, and doing so could also cause veterans to avoid clinicians in this way. As you say, a struggle. Thanks, Timothy!

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