This month’s featured member is WNY Heroes, Inc. We recently spoke to Chris Kreiger Sr., Iraq War Veteran and President and Co-Founder of the organization.

Q: Why did your organization become a member of The Anti-Stigma Coalition?

Being a Veteran organization, we see and deal with the stigma on a daily basis. Partnering with The Anti-Stigma Coalition made sense. Working together as a team for the greater good means bigger success, better success and providing more options for those who seek treatment. Between our Peer to Peer program (Operation BOOTS) and Pawsitive for Heroes service dog program, we look to combat that stigma while giving hope and sustaining dignity at the same time. We see that even being in financial hardship also impacts someone’s mental health. Having said that, all of our programs, when you think about it, are to ease anxiety, stress, depression, PTSD or thoughts of suicide. We are here to provide that hand up, not a handout.

Q: How are veterans with mental health challenges impacted by stigma?

Veterans dealing with mental health for many if untreated risk additional issues such as homelessness, or even suicide. Veterans don’t like being labeled, no one likes being labeled. We believe Veterans are more labeled than civilians. Many Veterans refuse to seek treatment for that exact stigma.. Let’s look at PTSD, the letter “D” stands for disorder. We feel the “D” should be dropped. Is not PTSD a normal reaction to an abnormal situation? We feel nothing about PTS makes it a disorder. Veterans who go to war and deal with post war situations is a normal reaction. Hypervigilance, nightmares, panic attacks, depression, anxiety, all NORMAL reactions.

Q: What impact is the Campaign having in the community?

We believe the campaign is providing awareness to mental health and making people realize that seeking help for mental health is okay. We are all different, and all see the same thing in many different ways. No two people are alike. When comparing mental health now to years ago, you see a dramatic change in how mental health is dealt with both in the community and hospital settings. It is okay to ask for help, it is okay to be different. Changing the way others see a stigma means changing the stigma for those dealing with mental health.