La Grange boy shares film on PTSD for Eagle Scout project
|Twelve-year-old Jonah Reardon of La Grange Boy Scout Troop 14 pours cups of lemonade for guests prior to a movie discussion at the La Grange Public Library, 10 W. Cossitt Ave., on Nov. 24. For an Eagle Scout project, Jonah organized a screening and discussion of the Olivier Morel documentary "On the Bridge," a film highlighting post-traumatic stress disorder in U.S. soldiers. (Matthew Piechalak)|
It’s a subject few people want to talk about, but one a La Grange 12-year-old has taken upon himself to bring to light.
For Jonah Reardon’s Eagle Scout project, he wanted to inform people about the alarming rate of soldiers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan who are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Jonah and his dad, John, also discovered that more often than not, soldiers suffering from PTSD end up taking their own lives as a result of the overwhelming distress.
“Not a lot of people talk about PTSD when they have it, but they say when you actually talk about it, you probably feel better talking with someone that can comfort you,” Jonah said.
In September, Jonah came up with the idea to show a 90-minute film by Olivier Morel titled, “On the Bridge,” for veterans and the community at the La Grange Theatre after hearing an interview about the movie on the radio. The documentary follows soldiers who develop PTSD after they return home.
“Before that even happened, I was going to do a flag pole project where I’d put a flag and a flag pole at the La Grange Public Library,” Jonah said.
After extensive research though on his new plan, Jonah and his dad said they were shocked about how high the suicide rates were among soldiers at home. According to a recent study by USA Today, suicides of active duty members are now at a rate faster than one a day.
“More guys are killing themselves here in the United States than are being killed on the battlefield over in the Middle East,” John Reardon said. “It’s just appalling and it’s all war-related trauma.”
Jonah hosted the public screening Saturday along with a discussion with several expert panelists, including one soldier, Jason Moon, who appears in the film. The panel also included a soldier on active duty and psychologists who treat PTSD.
“This is a huge topic,” Jonah’s father said after the event. “It was good to have an opportunity to share and discuss after the movie, yet after it was all over, it felt like only the beginning. We are proud of Jonah and glad he took on this project.”
John Reardon said doing something like this is nothing out of the ordinary for his son.
“It’s totally in character for him to have empathy for these guys and to be concerned enough for him to do something about it,” he said. “That is his personality.”
Donations also were accepted Saturday for Jonah’s project beneficiary, the Robert E. Coulter Jr. Post 1941 American Legion in La Grange. More than 100 people attended.
“In trying to identify the unanswered needs of the veterans, housing and employment were core issues with ramifications for mental and emotional health,” John Reardon said. “It was pointed out that having an 800 number for a suicide hotline is not much use for the homeless or unemployed veterans without phones.
“Several good suggestions came forth, ranging from landlords dedicating a portion of their housing for veterans at lower rates, to yoga studios offering scholarships for veterans who may not otherwise be able to access beneficial therapies not offered through the VA.”
Overall, the message was to include more therapy models in veterans’ treatment plans as well as community-based health care, John Reardon said.
Jonah said it was his goal to have an audience made up of an even number of veterans and residents to encourage more education for those who aren’t familiar with how serious PTSD can be.
“I hope for half and half because I want veterans to come, but I also want the community to come because my goal is to raise awareness,” he said before the screening. “Veterans already know about it and they’re already experiencing it.”
About Jonah Reardon
RESIDENCE La Grange
EDUCATION Park Junior High
HOBBIES Earning merit badges and playing the cello, flute and guitar
MORE ONLINE For more information about this topic and how you can help, visit warriorsongs.org
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