Although there are many organizations trying to assist veterans on the suicide prevention front, the nonprofit Heroes to Heroes, is focusing on something unique known as moral injury (MI) – a psychological response that occurs in reaction to witnessing behaviors that go against an individual’s values and moral beliefs. Recent studies show that veterans who have experienced MI often lose their faith or ability to believe in a greater good or purpose, putting them at in increased risk for suicide.
Heroes to Heroes Foundation says individuals connected to their faith are four times less likely to die by suicide than those without no connection.
This month, the organization will honor the importance of Suicide Prevention & Awareness Month by expanding its 14-month program to a 28-month curriculum. Research conducted by Dr. Joseph Currier, a foremost expert in moral injury, interim clinical director at Veterans Recovery Resources, and professor of psychology at the University of South Alabama, informed the expansion.
A key cornerstone of the Heroes to Heroes curriculum includes a 10-day journey to Israel – a land regarded as holy by three major faiths – in which program participants visit holy sites to connect with their spiritual selves, no matter their religion.
“Through the opportunity to journey to Israel, our veterans can safely and unashamedly explore their spirituality or faith at sites regarded among the holiest in the world,” says Judy Isaacson Elias, CEO and founder of Heroes to Heroes. “It is here that a great majority of our participants say they are able to experience forgiveness for themselves and others, in an atmosphere of support among fellow military brothers or sisters who have suffered a moral injury in many of the same ways.”
To date, 350 male and female combat veterans have participated in the Heroes to Heroes program. According to Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran Harrison Manyoma the program works.
“Following my service, I was in pain — physically, mentally, and emotionally. I had lost my connection with everything and everyone important in my life and I was in a downward spiral that led me to the day I decided to end my life. By the grace of God, as I was getting ready to pull the trigger, my phone rang. On the other end of the line were two coaches from Heroes to Heroes who called me because a friend had recommended me for the program. That phone call literally, in that moment, saved my life for the short term. The experience that I had with the program after that – helping me to establish a network of veterans and friends who understand my experiences and reconnect with my family and most importantly, my faith – saved my life for the long term.”
For more information on Heroes to Heroes Foundation, its program expansion and efforts around suicide prevention, visit heroestoheroes.org.