Faculty voice:

Tina Thompson: Helping veterans in need

Nov. 6, 2019

Tina Thompson is a senior clinical instructor in MSU’s School of Social Work. She is also the coordinator of statewide blended and weekend MSW programs and the Combat Veterans Certificate program at MSU.

At least 20 veterans die by suicide every day — a number my husband almost joined.

Kevin and I started dating in March 2006, the same month he returned from his deployment to Iraq with the USMC. I was a student in the Master of Social Work Program at MSU, having already earned my bachelor’s degree in social work a year earlier. Despite focusing my studies on helping people, I had no idea how to help Kevin, as the experiences and challenges combat veterans face weren’t discussed in any of my courses.

The nightmares, flashbacks and hypervigilance took me by surprise. I learned quickly to not wake him from a deep sleep, to change lanes when there was garbage on the road and that his drinking wasn’t just about having fun.

The months turned into years and despite repeated attempts at treatment, including evidence-based therapies for post-traumatic stress and various concoctions of psychotropic medications to help with sleep, depression and chronic pain, Kevin was still hurting, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Flash forward to Sept. 20, 2015: we had an exciting day planned with friends, a trip to the Renaissance Festival. Things were going well until our daughter Dylan threw a tantrum because she wanted to finish coloring her picture before getting in the car. Something in Kevin was triggered. He grabbed the picture from Dylan and tore it in half, yelling at her to get in the car. He knew from Dylan’s crying and the look on my face that this was NOT okay and he retreated upstairs. My gut told me not to leave him alone, so I made him get in the car. It was a miserable day, as the dark cloud wouldn’t go away.

While I didn’t know it then, Kevin planned to take his life that day.

Kevin received lifesaving HEALING through Save A Warrior the week of Dylan’s birthday in Oct. 2017 and is now a readjustment counselor at a Vet Center, where he helps other combat veterans. 

The Combat Veteran Certificate is deeply personal, as Kevin and I live with the aftereffects of war every day. This certificate is designed to push students toward empathy for the experiences of veterans who have gone to war and to develop a deep understanding of the difference between treatment and healing, with HEALING being what so many veterans desperately need if we hope to address the veteran suicide epidemic.

See the following links for more information on Tina Thompson's story, the Combat Veterans Program and the MSW Scholarship Initiative. Interested in supporting MSU veterans? Support the MSW Veterans Scholarship.