CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – A Lowcountry-based female veterans organization is working to change the perception of female veterans and improve their mental health through social and nature-based activities.
The non-profit is called She’s the Veteran.
A few years ago, Brooke Jackson Kahn, who currently serves as a Physicians Assistant (PA) in the U.S. Army, moved to the Lowcountry and began looking for a community to plug into.
“I didn’t really see anything that was specific to female veterans,” said Jackson Kahn.
That’s when she decided to take matters into her own hands.
“Our mission is improving mental health in the woman veteran through programmatic activity and building a community,” said Jackson Kahn.
Now, She’s the Veteran has more than 300 members and is growing. All women who are currently serving or have served are welcome to be a part of the non-profit.
Each month, members participate in different activities such as fishing, sailing, horseback riding, and more in order to help mental health.
“We really focus on neuroplasticity so that’s just improving mental health by learning a skill,” said Jackson Kahn. “The whole mental health aspect kind of comes from my senior year of PA school. I was doing research and my topic was PTSD is both under-diagnosed and under-treated in the female veteran.”
The Palmetto State is home to more than 45,000 female veterans with 10,000 to 15,000 living in Charleston county. Nationally, women make up around 10% of the veteran population.
According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, females are twice as likely to develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) than males.
Jackson Kahn says part of the reason female veterans are underdiagnosed is because men and women can show signs of the disorder differently.
“Typically men are a lot more outward with PTSD so it’s something that can be seen from a lot of people. Women tend to be very inward. So they might be suffering silently.”
On top of many women struggling with PTSD or Military Sexual Trauma (MST), Jackson Kahn says expectations are different for women versus men after deployment.
“They’re often not given a break. So when they come back from either deployment or some of these mobilizations, they’re just thrust back into the same things they were doing prior to doing that. They’re not given the mental health break of checking in with themselves to see what they’ve experienced, kind of processing, versus men when they come back, they’re given their space. Everybody calls them a hero, appropriately so, but the women are having to do the same things of picking up the kids and making the lunches and taking care of the things at the house and paying the bills but by the way, you’re still to report for duty at 0500.”
She’s the Veteran offers 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 just give me positive feedback saying this is something that they’ve needed, they never knew they needed it prior to, and just overall thrilled.”
Jackson Kahn is excited about the growth she’s 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 almost say it’s like making a statement without saying a word because it’s just an understanding of the sisterhood and our journey.”
If you would like to join She’s the Veteran or learn more about an upcoming family-friendly fundraiser, click here.