Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation Awards $150,000 to Points of Light to Support Mental Health Needs of U.S. Military Service Members Returning from Afghanistan, Iraq

NEW YORK, Dec. 17, 2013 – Soldiers returning from active duty in Afghanistan and Iraq can face a range of mental health issues that may affect their quality of life and their families, including severe depression, post-traumatic stress (PTSD) and substance abuse. They also face a rising suicide rate. However, fewer than half of the 2 million military personnel who served in those countries seek treatment for their serious mental illness.

Since it was launched in 2011, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation’s Mental Health & Well-Being initiative has recognized the importance of supporting efforts that address the mental health needs of United States military service personnel returning from active duty and their families. This year, the Foundation is awarding 10 grants totaling $3.28 million to fund innovative programs that will establish sustainable community-based support systems for veterans and their families.

Points of Light, one of the grantees, (click here to learn about Points of Light’s military programs) will receive $150,000 to partner with Outside the Wire on its Theater of War performances to military and civilian audiences. Outside the Wire is a social impact company that uses theater to address a number of pressing public health issues, including the psychological impact of serving in war on veterans and their families. Theater of War has been hailed as a revolutionary public health campaign that uses performances of ancient Greek plays as a catalyst for town hall discussions about the physical and mental wounds of war. The performance events will increase the visibility of service members and their families and engage civilians in discussions about the lasting impact of war and a community’s civic responsibility to help veterans and their families reintegrate and heal. A smartphone app will be developed to evaluate the program and to provide links to resources for service members and their families.

“With the conflict in Iraq now over and the conflict in Afghanistan winding down, the stakes could not be higher for service members, veterans and their families returning to garrison and civilian life,” says John Damonti, president, Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation. “We know the need for integrated community support will continue to escalate as more troops return home and the country continues to downsize its military.

“Hundreds of thousands of veterans struggle with the challenges of re-integration – unemployment and marital stress, as well as the invisible wounds of PTSD and traumatic brain injury,” Damonti adds. “The Foundation’s commitment to its partners will not only implement novel models of support for veterans and their families, but also provide much-needed evidence from scientific evaluations to help influence informed decisions for policy change.”

About the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation

The mission of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation is to promote health equity and improve the health outcomes of populations disproportionately affected by serious diseases and health conditions. The Foundation’s Mental Health & Well-Being initiative in the U.S. focuses funding on addressing the mental health and reintegration needs of returning service members, veterans and their families. For more information about the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, please visit www.bms.com/foundation or follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/bmsnews.

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