Affecting approximately 20% of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom veterans, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a growing epidemic.
Soldiers, airmen, marines, and seamen leave the service only to face an enemy they didn’t see coming. PTSD interferes with everyday life causing depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems. Thousands of veterans struggle with this disease on a daily basis, but an organization called Parrots for Patriots is determined to help.
For years after retiring from the Marines, Douglas Ladd of Portland, Oregon experienced PTSD side effects including anger and emotional issues. Traditional coping methods failed to make a difference, but then he met a cockatoo named Cleopatra through Parrots for Patriots.
He told TODAY:
“You can’t get mad at her because she’s a bird. People you can get mad at, because they’re supposed to know better.”
Cleopatra has helped Ladd manage his emotions, and he’s formed a special bond with his feathery friend.
“If I’m in the other room and Cleopatra keeps squawking, I tell her, ‘I see you, I see you,’ and when she gets tired of me saying that, she says, ‘Whatever,’ because she wants me to come back to the room.”
Founder of Parrots for Patriots, Chris Driggins, is also a veteran. He explains that birds “demand normalcy,” something that many veterans struggling with PTSD desperately need.
“They help you fall into a pattern—get up at this time, give me a treat at this time, give me TLC. Then you find yourself in a normal routine again.”
Dogs, and even cats, may be more known for aiding struggling veterans, but Driggins recognizes how birds offer comfort and support that no other animal can. Birds—especially parrots—are known for their intelligence. They can respond verbally; this popular TED Talk shows an African Grey parrot with an impressive vocabulary and the ability to respond to questions.