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Whole Health app helps combat veteran

Veteran Ricardo Martinez sits with his Whole Health Coach at a desk

Army veteran Ricardo Martinez meets with FHCC Whole Health Coach Rossyvette Harrington. He said Whole Health is making the difference in his recovery from PTSD. He regularly accesses Whole Health resources through the phone app. (Photo by Jayna Legg)

By Jayna Legg, Public Affairs Specialist
Thursday, April 15, 2021
Depression was ruining combat veteran Ricardo Martinez’s life, and he knew it.

The Iraqi War veteran had isolated himself for a year. During that time, he lost six people in his life to COVID-19.

“Everything got pushed down,” said Martinez, who served in the Army for six years, including in the storied 82 Airborne Division.

During his year of isolation, the Waukegan, Ill. resident stopped taking his young daughter to the park. He feared he would lose her and his wife.

Martinez decided it was time to do something. He admitted himself to the Lovell Federal Health Care Center in North Chicago, Ill. for treatment of his PTSD.

It wasn’t the first time he sought mental health treatment. It was the fourth time he entered the PTSD program, and this time he was determined not to quit. So, when FHCC Whole Health Coach Rossyvette Harrington visited Martinez soon after he was admitted and told him about Whole Health, he quickly recognized it could make the difference.

“I’m open-minded,” he said during an interview in Harrington’s office several weeks after Martinez started his treatment and embraced the Whole Health concept. “Let’s try this. It’s up to me to see what I want to work on first, and I like that you go at your own pace.” Screen shot of Whole Health app on a mobile phone

The Whole Health app offers veterans a wealth of resources such as mindfulness sessions. The Personal Health Inventory, the door to understanding and embracing Whole Health, can be done through the Whole Health app.

Lovell FHCC has implemented the Whole Health concept across the hospital – which is the first and only fully integrated Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense (Navy) health care facility, serving military patients and their families, and veterans in Southeast Wisconsin and Northeast Illinois.

Whole Health was adopted by the VA in 2015. Whole Health is a proactive approach to health care. It equips, empowers and treats patients, allowing them to discover what matters most to them so they can live their lives to the fullest.

“What I find most fulfilling about the Whole Health approach to care and Whole Health Coaching is offering patients the opportunity to tell their story,” Harrington said. “When our patients feel heard, they are empowered to take charge of their health and begin working towards wellness.”

Martinez decided to first focus on the “power of the mind,” which includes exercises to help him relax, let go of his anxiety and pay attention to his heartrate and breathing, which, in turn, has helped him control his blood pressure. He started practicing meditation and mindful thinking several times a day and was pleased to learn he could do both and access many more Whole Health resources through the Whole Health app on his phone.

Martinez used the app to complete a Personal Health Inventory (PHI), the backbone of the Whole Health concept. The PHI is the first step to figuring out “what’s important to you and what you want your good health for,” Martinez said.

He plans to use Whole Health resources down the road to learn about pain management and “ease off” some of his pain medications. He has been battling chronic pain since a traffic accident more than a decade ago while he was serving in the Army.

To fully understand what he wanted his health for, he worked on formulating his MAP – Mission, Appreciation & Purpose – and keeps that in the forefront of his mind. Martinez’s goal, the reason he wants his health, is to be a “better person, father, son, brother and husband.”

His ideal future is simple. “It’s being alive,” he said. “I want to see my daughter walk down the aisle.”

He is reminded of his MAP every time his lock screen pops up on his phone. The photo he chose is of him and his daughter hugging and smiling at her first Chicago Cubs baseball game, the summer before he left home to get treatment. “It was one of my best days,” he said. “You always see the picture. It’s always a motivation.”

For someone who served in the 82nd Airborne, getting help was “a feat in itself,” Martinez said. Now he wants other veterans to know about Whole Health. “I want other veterans to benefit,” he said. One way he plans to help is to one day be a Whole Health peer facilitator

“Whole Health is lifting me up,” Martinez said. “Before, I just kept quitting. Whole Health gives me more resources. All you have to do is ask. You think there’s no one there to listen, but there is.”

The app is available for download on both Android and Apple devices. Visit the VA App Store to download the Live Whole Health app today.


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