Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 77‘s Patrick Welch recently spoke to Buffalo, N.Y.’s Spectrum News about mental health and PTSD. He is among the estimated 30 percent of Vietnam veterans to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It took me almost 20 years to acknowledge that I had a mental health issue,” Welch told the news outlet. “For all of those years I self-medicated, and Dr. Jack Daniels was my counselor. Every night, Dr. Jack Daniels told me I was just fine — it was everyone else out there that had the mental health problems, not me.”
Welch had a series of traumatic experiences before joining the Marines, including witnessing his father’s death by drowning while SCUBA diving. His later requests for help to the Veterans Administration were not positive, leading him to become an advocate for fellow veterans.
“When we came back from Vietnam, we [needed] to come up with a methodology to help people who incur that malady,” he said. “We had nowhere to go to talk to fellow veterans. We formed our own national service organization — Vietnam Veterans of America.”
He now mentors other veterans who struggle with PTSD. “I admit straight away that I have PTSD and it doesn’t mean that I lived an abnormal life. I’ve lived a very successful — personal and professional — life, and so can other people,” Welch said. “In fact, most people do lead very, very good lives with mental health issues.”