Jacob Schick was part of 1st Battalion, 23rd Marines, which was deployed to Iraq in 2004.
On a morning patrol in the Sunni Triangle west of Baghdad, his tank hit a landmine and Schick was blown 30 feet into the air. His body endured massive injuries that required 46 operations and 23 blood transfusions — but his mind suffered long after his wounds healed.
Diagnosed with PTSD and traumatic brain injury, Schick talked himself out of “eating a bullet for over a year.”
Thanks to the support of his wife, family “and surrounding myself with people who are flat out better than me,” Schick healed and created an awareness campaign called #22Kill, based on a department of Veterans Affairs Suicide Data Report in 2012 that stated 22 veterans take their own lives every day.
That was back in 2016. Today, in 2020, the organization is about to roll out its new name — One Tribe Foundation.
“This is an evolution from our roots as an awareness campaign to a mental and emotional wellness organization helping thousands of people from all over the world, including military veterans, first responders, frontline healthcare workers and all of their families,” explains Schick.
“As we like to say it’s ‘one tribe; one fight.’ That doesn’t mean the warrior culture. It means humankind leaning in, relying on one another and loving hard in order to live well.”
Schick points out that, while suicides among veterans have decreased a little, suicides in frontline healthcare workers have increased as a result of the global pandemic. He believes the only way to battle it is to change the way we think about feelings of hopelessness.
“It’s actually a normal reaction to an abnormal situation,” Schick says. “People need to understand that feeling suicidal doesn’t make them abnormal — there’s nothing wrong with you; this is you going into survival mode.
“Every human being understands what mental pain and suffering is because every one of us has dealt with it. Regardless of how you vote, or who you do or don’t pray to, that’s something we can find common ground on.”
For Schick, a significant distraction in these challenging times is the intense polarization of America; the way we stand on one side or the other and never the twain shall meet.
“There’s a lot to be learned from people stirring the pot and we have to remember that,” Schick says. “But if instead of leading with disdain, hate and resentment... if we could understand that we don’t have to agree on everything but can come together as adults and lean in with love, it’s possible we could all get along.”
Schick reflects on all of this and more in Coffee Break, a weekly 15-minute intermission in your working day to discover more about PR pros occupying interesting roles across the industry, live each Wednesday morning by 11:00am ET.