REGION — A recent Telly award for the PSA series “Listen to a Veteran” is another feather in the cap of author and psychologist Paula Caplan, who founded The Welcome Johnny and Jane Home Project.
The 30-second PSAs ask folks to listen to a veteran with “respect and a whole heart.” Some of the PSAs feature a variety of veterans each delivering a line of the service announcement. Others show a single veteran making a heartfelt request to viewers to listen and save a life.
The simple message of the PSA series and project is that a kind ear, without feedback or judgment, is healing and can help prevent veteran suicide.
Caplan said the commonly shared statistic that 22 veterans a day commit suicide is a vast underestimation. She said the number of suicides is higher, and feeling isolated is the chief reason veterans take their life.
Listening to a veteran one-on-one without judgment reduces their social isolation, Caplan said.
“It can transform a life,” Caplan said.
Caplan wrote the book “When Johnny and Jane Come Marching Home” to inform people of the importance of listening, and as a guide to create a listening group.
She said while thanking a veteran for their service is a thoughtful gesture, listening to veteran is a lifesaver.
“Anybody can just listen,” Caplan said.
Part of the process is for a volunteer to listen without conversation or comments. Caplan said this frees veterans to speak about their experiences in the way they want, and to feel safe doing so. It allows some veterans to speak for the first time about combat, rape or shame for dishonorable service.
She said family members are not ideal listeners. Veterans want to protect their family from the pain of their experiences.
Also family members often feel compelled to comment or judge. What is needed is to “really just listen.”
“Listen with 100 percent attention and your whole heart,” Caplan said.
Volunteer listeners serve as a perfect witness.
Oceanside Public Library held Listen to a Veteran sessions in fall 2014 as part of a series of veteran support and community education programs. Veterans and listeners signed up for a time slot, were randomly paired up, and gave positive feedback on their experiences.
Similar efforts take place all across the country.
Caplan’s documentary film “Is Anybody Listening?” also shares her message.