CHARLESTON, SC (WCBD) — A Lowcountry-based organization of female veterans is working to change the perception of female veterans and improve their mental health through social and nature-based activities.
The non-profit organization is called She’s the Veteran.
A few years ago, Brooke Jackson Kahn, who is currently a Physician Assistant (PA) in the US Army, moved to the Lowcountry and began looking for a community to connect with.
“I haven’t seen anything specific to female veterans,” Jackson Kahn said.
It was then that she decided to take matters into her own hands.
“Our mission is to improve the mental health of female veterans through programmatic activities and community building,” said Jackson Kahn.
Today, She’s the Veteran has over 300 members and continues to grow. All women who are currently serving or have served are invited to be part of the nonprofit organization.
Each month, members participate in different activities such as fishing, sailing, horseback riding and more to help with mental health.
“We’re really focusing on neuroplasticity, which is just improving mental health by learning a skill,” Jackson Kahn said. “The whole aspect of mental health kind of comes from my last year of PA school. I was doing research and my topic was that PTSD is both underdiagnosed and undertreated in veterans.
Palmetto State is home to more than 45,000 female veterans, 10,000 to 15,000 of whom live in Charleston County. Nationally, women make up approximately 10% of the veteran population.
According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, women are twice as likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as men.
Jackson Kahn says part of the reason female veterans are underdiagnosed is that men and women may show signs of the disease differently.
“In general, men are much more open with PTSD, so it’s something that can be seen by a lot of people. Women tend to be very introverted. So they might suffer in silence.
In addition to many women dealing with PTSD or military sexual trauma (MSD), Jackson Kahn says expectations are different for women compared to men post-deployment.
“They often have no respite. So when they come back from a deployment or some of these mobilizations, they’re just back into the same things they were doing before they did. They’re not given the sanity break to check in with themselves to see what they’ve been through, some sort of treatment, compared to the men when they come back, they’re given their space. Everyone calls them heroes, rightly so, but women have to do the same, pick up the kids, cook lunches, take care of things around the house and pay the bills, but by the way, you’re still report for work at 0500.
She’s the Veteran provides a safe space for women to reflect on their service, share stories with a community of women who understand their unique experiences and form a sisterhood.
“I’ve had so many women who just gave me positive feedback saying it was something they needed, never knew they needed it before, and just thrilled. “
Jackson Kahn is excited about the growth she is seeing in her organization and hopes to help as many female veterans as possible.
“It’s definitely a different journey for women in the military being a minority and we have a different story to tell. I would almost say it’s like making a statement without saying a word because it’s just an understanding of the fellowship and our journey.
If you would like to join She’s the Veteran or learn more about an upcoming family fundraiser, click here.