Carolyn Colley, an associate counsel at VA’s Board of Veterans’ Appeals, recently produced the short film With or Without Me to raise awareness of Veteran suicide and to illustrate its devastating impact on their loved ones.
Veteran suicide is an issue close to Colley’s heart as she lost both of her brothers, who were combat Veterans, to suicide.
In February, she took part in a film workshop for post-9/11 Veterans called the Patton Veterans Project whose mission is to help Veterans cope with post traumatic stress, reduce social isolation and strengthen family, community and professional bonds. The program incorporates screening events that validate Veterans’ experiences, advance community dialogue and educate the public about the mental health challenges facing Veterans and military families.
Tragedy Assistance Program For Survivors (TAPS) partnered with the Patton Veterans Project (PVP) by participating in its game-changing “I Was There” filmmaking workshop. Colley, an Air Force Veteran, joined Ben Patton and other Veterans touched by suicide loss to make the film.
According to TAPS, With or Without Me is a powerful example of the ways in which storytelling through film can at once bring awareness to a difficult issue to light while at the same time being immensely healing for the creators of the content. Watch the film and see for yourself.
TAPS and PVP will present a session on the healing power of film for suicide loss survivors on April 26 at the 52nd Annual Conference of the American Association of Suicidology in Denver.
About the author: Elizabeth Murphy is a special advisor to the chairman of the Board of Veterans’ Appeals.