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This Tampa nonprofit uses a holistic approach to treat vets with post-combat trauma

A veteran works out with ropes during a clinic held by SOF Missions.
SOF Missions
A veteran works out during a clinic held by SOF Missions.

SOF Missions provides free health care options for post-combat veterans seeking trauma care, with an overall mission to combat the veteran suicide crisis.

In 2019, 6,261 veterans died by suicide, a rate that was 52% higher than that for nonveteran adults.

A Tampa nonprofit founded by a former special forces colonel is working to lower the risk to vets by using a holistic approach to help them deal with trauma and continue to find purpose in life after their service.

Damon Friedman is president and founder of SOF Missions, which provides free five-day health clinics called “Be Resilient” for veterans.

Friedman said that he believes trauma is processed in multiple domains, so he uses what he calls a “whole health” model to address psychological, social, physical, and spiritual wellness.

Friedman hopes that this approach can reach veterans who have tried other treatments without success.

“We solve problems in that one week — where people have been going to treatment for years and have had no idea how to solve or treat these issues that each individual’s dealing with,” he said.

This interdisciplinary approach, gives participants with post-traumatic stress disorder a range of treatments, including Accelerated Resolution Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing and physical therapy.

The clinic provides other alternative treatments to PTSD like chiropractors, acupuncturists and sleep labs.

However, PTSD is not the only focus for the clinics, Friedman said.

“We’ve got strength and conditioning coaches, we go through nutrition, we do physical therapy, you have a psychologist, you get social workers, you get cognitive therapy …,” he said.

Veterans sit in a circle on a field during a SOF Missions clinic.
SOF Missions
The clinics provided by SOF Missions use a holistic model to address psychological, social, physical, and spiritual wellness.

The process is tailored to the individual, Friedman said.

“We do a full assessment of the individual,” he said. “And we roll out something very specific to the individual.”

Vets who go through the program also get one year of follow-up care and guidance, with 30-, 60- and 90-day reevaluations with their medical director.

“Back at home … this is where we start stumbling. And this is where we start falling, right? This is where we isolate ourselves,” he said. “We want to make sure that when they get home, they continue winning.”

Friedman's organization partners with the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs to get benefits to every veteran in the program.

Veterans can visit SOF Missions web page to apply for the clinics.

Katrine Bruner is the WUSF Rush Family/Health News Florida intern for spring 2022.
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