New website helps vets cope after combat

By Patricia Kime - Staff writer
Posted : Saturday May 19, 2012 12:57:52 EDT

Former Marine Nancy Schiliro hits the gas every time she drives under an overpass — especially if there’s someone on a cellphone crossing it.

The habit was a lifesaver when she drove convoys in Iraq, where insurgents used phones to trigger roadside bombs. But she knows it isn’t necessary in New York City.

“I’m shaking, I’m excited, I have a rush all over my body and I’m scared all at the same time. It’s the weirdest feeling,” she says.

To cope with her reaction, she takes deep breaths, turns on the radio, smokes a cigarette.

“I have to stop and breathe and remember where I am, that I am home and I’m OK.”

Schiliro’s story and strategies for handling anxiety, along with the experiences of other Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans, are central to a new website. Restore Warriors aims to educate veterans, service members, families and friends on the potentially life-altering after-effects of war, from post-traumatic stress and depression to relationship problems or general anxiety.

“The intent is to provide not only information on post-traumatic stress, PTSD, traumatic brain injury and other issues, but also tools for managing and dealing with these changes,” said Michelle Neary, a social worker with the site sponsor, the Combat Stress Recovery Program at Wounded Warrior Project.

The site offers a self-assessment to help veterans examine their symptoms and feelings, as well as exercises and videos on eight subjects: stress, relationships, self-esteem, loss, betrayal, shame and guilt, self-care, and wellness.

The goal is not to supplant professional mental health care but to reach those who may be reluctant to seek help, Neary said.

“It can be accessed 24-7 in the privacy of your own home. So, if at 2 in the morning a warrior is experiencing negative thinking, they can log on,” she said. links to various Department of Veterans Affairs and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration programs, Give An Hour and Military OneSource, and has a direct chat link with the Veterans Crisis Line.

“The most important thing for warriors to know is that they are not alone. This brings tools into the house, so even those who have isolated themselves can focus on the issues they are facing and work through them,” Neary said.