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Gary Sinise Foundation Blog

Mental Health Awareness Month

May 3rd, 2021

This month, the Gary Sinise Foundation is proud to join millions of Americans in recognizing Mental Health Awareness Month. Since the Foundation's establishment in 2011, attending to the mental wellness needs of our nation's service members, first responders, veterans, and their families has been one of the forefronts of our mission.

Through the Gary Sinise Foundation Avalon Network, a cognitive health and mental wellness network, we now provide transformative care to veterans and first responders experiencing post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injuries, and substance abuse. Over the next several years, the Foundation will establish additional treatment and training sites nationwide.

Utilizing proven treatment, training, and rehabilitation methods from Boulder Crest Foundation and the Marcus Institute for Brain Health, the Gary Sinise Foundation Avalon Network will help heal the invisible wounds afflicting our veterans and first responders, transforming their struggle into strength, and lifelong posttraumatic growth.

Continue reading the stories of how the Gary Sinise Foundation supports the mental wellness needs of our nation's heroes and their families.

How Kimberly DeFiori's military career cut short inspires advocacy and nonprofit addressing epidemic facing veterans and first responders

Kimberly DeFiori shares the trauma she experienced in Afghanistan so that other veterans and first responders aren't afraid to ask for help and seek treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. She talks about the haunting memories that drove her to self-medicate and how, without seeking help, she nearly killed herself. Continue reading here.

Three-year grant delivers mental health services to New York City firefighters and retirees

Friends of Firefighters was founded in the aftermath of the tragic events of September 11, 2001, to assuage the mental health needs of FDNY firefighters by offering free counseling and wellness services. But 19 years later, the Brooklyn-based nonprofit finds itself on the frontlines at an unprecedented moment in its operating history, when the need for mental health professionals by first responders and the public alike is in tremendous demand. Continue reading here.

Gary Sinise Foundation First Responder Outreach focuses on mental health

For decades, many of our nation's heroes have returned from overseas burdened by the mental and physical wounds of war. Accompanying their return was the need for mental health support services. In recent years, the Gary Sinise Foundation has provided funding to mental health-related organizations, such as the Boulder Crest Foundation, Veterinarians for Valor, Brothers at War, and more. However, there is not only a need for these services within the veteran community but our first responder communities as well. Continue reading here.

Gary Sinise Foundation funding helps navy veteran combat PTSD and substance abuse

If you were to ask Zakri Zoeller where he would be today had he not received treatment for alcohol abuse and PTSD, he would say one of three things: in jail, dead, or killed somebody. "God definitely has something planned for me because I should've been arrested. I don't know how I didn't kill myself or kill somebody else," Zoeller said, who served as a Navy rescue swimmer in a Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewmen (SWCC) unit. Continue reading here.

Financial aid relieves unemployed veteran battling PTSD

Michael Sampson (whose real identity is concealed for privacy reasons) retired from the military in 2015 after serving for nearly a decade. But two combat deployments to Iraq and southern Afghanistan left him with debilitating psychological trauma. Sampson and his family live in a one-bedroom apartment in San Bernardino County, just south of Los Angeles. Coming up with enough money to afford rent and cover the costs of utilities, car payments, and pay for groceries, all on one income, became a stressful deliberation and a faint possibility before the Gary Sinise Foundation stepped in to help. Continue reading here.


During Mental Health Awareness Month, we would like to spotlight our Mental Wellness initiatives and partners who are providing innovative and empowering treatment to address the mental wellness needs of our nation's heroes and their loved ones.

Marcus Institute for Brain Health
Veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are offered comprehensive care at MIBH, whose experts in brain health work hand in hand with patients to treat their physical, emotional, and cognitive changes that accompany trauma to the head.

Boulder Crest Foundation
In collaboration with the Disabled American Veterans and Boulder Crest Foundation, the Gary Sinise Foundation connects wounded veterans from different military conflicts. Over seven days, veterans come together to heal, find renewed strength to overcome their challenges, and begin walking the path of Posttraumatic Growth.

Warriors Heart
Warriors Heart® provides private treatment to our nation's veterans and first responders seeking inpatient treatment for chemical dependency, alcohol abuse, with co-occurring psychological disorders relating to post-traumatic stress disorder, or the psychological effects of mild traumatic brain injury.

Friends of Firefighters
Friends of Firefighters provides free, confidential mental health and wellness services to New York City's active and retired firefighters and their families. Since the attacks on 9/11, they have expanded to meet the growing needs of the FDNY community by providing a range of peer support programs, financial guidance, expert counseling, and wellness services, all of which are offered by a team of professional staff sensitive to and knowledgeable about the firefighter culture.

Brothers at War Resiliency Workshops
Through the documentary, Brothers at War, we empower our nation’s warfighters to turn post-traumatic stress into posttraumatic growth. Through individual journaling and group discussions that focus on the experiences witnessed during deployment, service members can reintegrate alongside their families who are also invited to participate in these engaging resiliency workshops.

Veterinarians for Valor
In partnership with Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, veterinarians provide free medical care to police K-9s and service dogs utilized by the military, first responders, and veterans.

Never Alone
Widows of Heroes retreats are weekends of healing and comfort where widows of fallen military and first responders can come together to be inspired, supported, and find a place of community.

This month, help us support the mental wellness needs of our nation's service members, first responders, and veterans by donating to the Gary Sinise Foundation Avalon Network today!

Written by Savannah La Liberte