Not All Wounds Are Visible

The 2nd Annual PTSD Awareness Day Walk in Marion County, and other initiatives, are helping individuals in the community, including veterans and first responders.

The Marion County community recognizes that many individuals have wounds which are not visible. Through sponsorships, T-shirt and cup sales, and by providing resources, organizations and the public have come together locally to help end the stigma associated with this disorder. 

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur after a person experiences trauma including, but not limited to, the stress of combat, abuse, violence, assault and putting one’s life on the line as a first responder. PTSD affects approximately 8 million adults in the United States annually.

In 2014, the United States Senate designated the month of June as PTSD Awareness Month and June 27th as National Teal Out Day in order to raise public awareness about the issues related to PTSD while reducing the stigmas associated with this illness. The goal of this awareness is to ensure those who are suffering from these invisible wounds receive proper treatment. 

PTSD can affect anyone, but it particularly affects many of our first responders and veterans in the community. For these individuals, PTSD can develop after a multitude of events, including life-threatening situations, stressful events and violent occurrences. PTSD, however, can affect anyone—people of all ages and all walks of life. 

Throughout the month of June, Marion County teamed up with many local organizations to help spread the message that not all wounds are visible. These organizations included the Community Foundation for Ocala/Marion County, Fire Rescue Support, The Friends of the Ocala Marion Veterans Park Foundation, 10 Can, Ocala Fire Rescue, the Ocala Police Department, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and Marion County Fire Rescue. Together, these organizations helped share messages and resources designed to help those in need. Additionally, the Board of County Commissioners proclaimed June 27th as PTSD Awareness/Teal Out Day in Marion County. 

The month ended with the 2nd Annual PTSD Awareness Day Walk in Marion County, held on June 27th at the McPherson Governmental Complex Wellness Trail, to show support to the community and its first responders and veterans. The 2.2-mile walk was in honor of the 22 veterans (on average) who succumb to suicide every day. The goal of this event was to show our local first responders and veterans they are not alone in their experiences and trauma and that they are appreciated for all they do to keep Marion County a safe place to live.

The entire community was invited, in addition to local first responders, veterans and military personnel who participated in the walk, some in full gear. Marion County’s local firefighters, and some from surrounding counties, took on the challenge with courage, leading the walk alongside the community. A retired firefighter, Tom “Bull” Hill, who has dedicated much of his time and efforts toward bringing awareness to the effects of PTSD, also helped lead the walk. He is most known for walking the length of Florida in honor of his fellow firefighter peers who have experienced the effects of PTSD. During the event, attendees heard from numerous Ocala and Marion County officials who encouraged them to take a stand against the stigmas behind PTSD and seek help if needed. 

The more than 300 attendees were able to take advantage of the ample resources and support systems available from local vendors and organizations. Multiple medical groups, counseling services and retreat groups were in attendance, all with one common goal; to end the stigma associated in speaking about this silent disorder.

The money raised from this event came from the sales of T-shirts and tumblers, which were designed with the 2023 Marion County PTSD Awareness logo, as well as from donations. The shirts and tumblers will remain available for purchase at marionvetpark.com/ptsd and proceeds will go toward the 2024 PTSD Awareness Day Walk. 

This year’s sales and donations brought in an estimated $11,000 to be divided between the Marion County Rescue Support Fund, the Community Foundation for Ocala/Marion County and the Friends of Marion County Veterans Park Foundation.

Each of these groups will put the funds toward helping with PTSD awareness within Marion County in different ways. The Fire Rescue Support group helps both Ocala Fire Rescue and Marion County Fire Rescue and will use the funds to provide resources to those in need. The Community Foundation for Ocala/Marion County will provide funding to local nonprofits that provide mental health resources and services. The Friends of the Marion County Veterans Park Foundation will use the funding to enhance a new program designed to provide support to those who are suffering from the effects of this illness. 

The organizers and participants extend their thanks to everyone who attended the event this year and are looking forward to attracting an even larger crowd next year to raise more money for the cause. OS

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