CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and one local veteran is thanking the Louis A. Johnson V.A. Medical Center for helping him through the most difficult time in his life.
Stephen Morrison shared his story with 12 News about how a work therapy program brought him out of homelessness and despair.
Morrison joined the Marine Corps at 19-years-old. He said he did it to honor his grandfather, to help his family and to serve his country.
“You put on this façade,” Morrison said. “‘I’m a Marine. I can handle anything tough,’ But, the reality of it was, I was very weak in that aspect, and I didn’t know how to deal with it, and I didn’t know how to ask for help.”
Morrison was responsible for maintaining jet engines, which he said was a stressful job. But, it was nothing he couldn’t handle at the time. Morrison left the Marine Corps after five years of service and struggled to transition back into civilian life.
“I disconnected with family and friends, everyone that was a part of my life,” Morrison said. “It was really hard to find any hope for change.”
Morrison and his wife divorced, and he found himself hopeless and homeless. In 2018, he turned to the V.A. for help.
Amber Hartsell is the homeless veteran health care coordinator, and through the Compensated Work Therapy Program, she has seen patients like Morrison make huge strides in their personal lives.
“My program helps in the sense of creating structure, support and a firm foundation for them to rebuild their lives to give them that second chance,” Hartsell said. “Stephen really took this chance and ran with it. I couldn’t be more proud of him. He has just been an absolutely amazing turnaround for us.”
The work therapy program allows patients to re-establish work responsibilities. Morrison delivers mail, stocks shelves and does some paperwork.
When his therapy concludes next month, Morrison will work through the D.A.V. to transport veterans to appointments.
“I’ve been able to re-establish a relationship with my family,” Morrison said. “But, that calling that I could never find, I’ve found it here.”
Hartsell said there are a few slots available for veterans interested in the work therapy program. To determine your eligibility, call the V.A.’s crisis hotline at 800-273-8255.