BARBI TWINS: You were once US Magazine’s “Sexiest Man on TV” and you starred in movies such as The Wanderers, Fort Apache, The Bronx, and Purple Hearts before a severe neck injury forced you to quit at the top of your career. Now you are working with NATO’S General John E. Michel to help prevent veteran suicide with rescued pets. What inspired such a switch?
KEN WAHL: I’ve always loved animals. I’ve never lived without them. As long as I can remember, I was bringing home strays. When I was five, I brought home a stray kitten I named Tiger. This was my first rescued animal. It wasn’t until I became an actor, and then injured my spine, that I discovered that these animals were actually very therapeutic and helped me to cope with my chronic pain. I wanted to share with others what worked for me.
BARBI TWINS: Can you explain how animals, specifically rescued animals, can help veterans with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and anyone dealing with severe depression or anxiety?
KEN WAHL: Most people may not realize the tremendous value that therapy/companion/comfort animals have for the purposes of easing the suffering of those with PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), particularly within the military.
A large part of the despair associated with these maladies is a deep sense of uselessness and being a burden to family and friends. This brings on feelings of guilt, which intensify the sense of worthlessness, igniting the downward spiral. I know this from personal experience, as I sustained a severe spinal injury in 1992. I, myself, sank into that abysmal pit of feeling utterly worthless, useless and burdensome. Caring for an animal, especially one that’s been rescued, can help return people to a sense of being needed and useful. In my own case, it was nearly miraculous. The relationship between human and animal is wholly symbiotic. The person needs the animal for comfort and companionship, and the animal needs the love and caring of the human. It is a classic “win-win” situation. It sounds simple – and it is. That is why it works so well. In most cases, it will be remarkably spiritually uplifting to both human and animal.
I’m not a doctor, nor am I a member of the military. What I am is an appreciative, concerned American citizen, who was horrified when I heard about the horrendous rates of suicide (22 per day) and PTSD/TBI within our military. As such, I felt compelled to reach out to anyone who cared to listen, to try to help with this terrible situation. This is not just life and death – it is life and death for those who defend our freedom. To me, nothing I could do could be more important. Fortunately, I have found many others that feel likewise. Despite many reports to the contrary, kindness, concern, and a desire to do good and make a positive difference in this life are alive and well in America. For that, I am extremely grateful.