VB Gives Back

#VBGIVESBACK: Dr. Ann Beeder

November 1, 2017

One Woman. One Charity. Every Month. We are honored to support the Headstrong Project as part of our ongoing #VBGIVESBACK program and will be donating $10 of every VeronicaBeard.com order in November to the cause.

In the United States, there are 22 veteran suicides every day. This staggering statistic was not a surprise to former Marine Corps officer Zach Iscol, who lost almost the same number of soldiers in his unit to suicide as he did in enemy action. Upon his return from war, Zach was determined find a way to provide mental health care at no-cost to post-9/11 veterans. He took this idea to longtime family friend Dr. Ann Beeder and started the Headstrong Project.

Dr. Beeder, who has over 20 years of psychiatry experience, jumped at the opportunity to treat the traumas of the men and women returning from war. As the Medical Director for the Headstrong Project, Dr. Beeder has worked with 85 therapists across the US to provide cost-free and confidential mental health care to 450 veterans.

We are honored to support the work that this incredible organization is doing for our nation’s heroes. Read more about Dr. Beeder’s work in the interview below and shop now to support this cause!

How was the Headstrong Project started?

Zachary Iscol called me in 2012 and asked if we would talk about starting a treatment program to provide bureaucracy-free, confidential, and cost-free care to post-9/11 combat veterans because the suicide incidence among veterans was extremely high (22 veterans per day in the US.)

Why did you want to get involved in this mission to help veterans?

Zach gave me no choice but to engage in this ambitious project. I met Zach when he was a 13 and I always admired his originality. Once 9/11 happened, he joined the United States Marine Corps and became a Captain responsible for many other Marines. Zach reached out to me while he was deployed asking about how he might handle situations soldiers under his command who faced marital troubles, depression, etc. A few years after he retired from the Marines, he met me for breakfast and explained that the number of soldiers lost from his unit to suicide was almost equal to the number of soldiers who died in enemy action. He insisted I help him start a program to help prevent suicide in veterans and I felt compelled to act.

What are the organizations goals?

The Headstrong Project plansto provide world-class mental health care to veterans from allgenerations across the US at no expense to the veteran. Zach Iscol oftensays, “If you have the courage to get help you will feel better.”

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How has your background working with vulnerable patients helped you create this program for veterans?

I began working at Weill Cornell Medical Center and The New York Presbyterian Hospital in 1988 and completed the Addiction Psychiatry fellowship in the early 1990s, where I began working in several well-established outpatient drug treatment programs. The majority of the patients suffered from multiple ailments including AIDS, Hepatitis C, severe psychiatric illnesses and substance use disorders. In fact, the AIDS epidemic in New York City was similar to veteran suicides in that it was a relentless and scary problem targeting a specific group.

We realized we needed to up our clinical game developed multidisciplinary teams of health care providers including physicians, social workers, nurses, and psychologists worked together to increase the level of contact and depth of understanding. We have found this approach improved support and individualizing treatment plans leads to better outcomes and happier patients. We used a similar strategy in developing the treatment modalities for veterans at the Headstrong Project and customized the details to be specific and effective.

Why is a customized treatment program essential?

People in need of treatment can engage and connect to care that has been individually tailored to their needs. Often people are reluctant to seek mental health care and being able to adjust the treatment to touch on the symptoms or type of care the person wants really enhances the chances of participation and improvement. We use specific therapies aimed at PTSD that reflect best practices in evidenced based medicine. Additionally, we engage the veterans in complementary alternative medicine and physical activities including rock climbing, kayaking, running and other group activities.

What is the typical treatment timeline?

Veterans receiving care at the Headstrong Project have an average treatment course of 6 months. Treatment can be any length as we do not have a time limit. We look to relieve symptoms of PTSD and eliminate suicidal symptoms. The outcome data we have collected suggests 70-88% of symptoms are improved dramatically by the end of treatment.

Zach Iscol and Ann Beeder.

What does the average person need to know about PTSD?

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can occur after 6 months or more of persistent symptoms including insomnia, intrusive thoughts, startle and anxiety symptoms, etc after a trauma. Sometimes the symptoms are so bothersome, an escalation of unhealthy behaviors like alcohol or cannabis use become a problem. PTSD can lead to unintended negative consequences including marital difficulties, employment problems or academic issues if untreated. The good news is PTSD is treatable and treatment really works.

How is the Headstrong Project working to scale to a national program?

The Headstrong Project has had significant help scaling our program to many other cities thanks to Morgan Stanley. We competed and won the 2015 Morgan Stanley Challenge and received the full attention of many managing directors who helped us create a road map for expanding our services nationally. The plan includes incredible detail ranging from first community contacts to finding the expert therapists. Without Morgan Stanley’s generous and continued assistance we would have remained a local program in NYC.

What does the organization hope to achieve in the future?

The Headstrong Project is currently operating in 11 markets and we plan to expand to 20 markets by 2020. Additionally, we are expanding our treatment to veterans of all generations and have just started treating Vietnam veterans in NYC.

The Headstrong Project is currently active in New York, San Diego, Chicago, Los Angeles,Denver, Houston, Colorado Springs, Buffalo, Ithaca, Syracuse and Washington DC. For every order on VeronicaBeard.com, $10 will be donated to the Headstrong Project, where it costs $5,000 per veteran to complete treatment. Your purchase has the power to make an incredible difference.


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