After serving in the Army with multiple tours abroad, Jon Darling now spends his days on his farm in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. He works with multiple organizations that connect veterans with small farms. He does it for the work, the cause, and the community.
Since his service, connecting with fellow veterans has been vital. Losing some that were close to him has been devastating.
“We kind of walk around like we don’t have problems. The one thing no one really wants to admit is ‘I need to talk to somebody before this gets out of hand,’” says Darling.
Darling says his decision to move to the farm, paired with reaching out to Dr. Anna Birks, a psychologist at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) treatment, have been two of his best decisions.
Initially meeting in person, Birks and Darling shifted to a home-based telehealth program, allowing Darling to video conference from the comfort of his own home, instead of driving over an hour to spend even more time finding a parking spot at the VA. Birks says this type of technology removes barriers for people who have jobs, lives far away, or simply prefer their own home over a clinical setting.
“It becomes impersonal when you have to get in the car and drive an hour-and-a-half and deal with things. A lot of things can happen in an hour-and-a-half. You can be thinking about something and then zone out, and that is all you’re thinking about. Sometimes you’re thinking about something bad and you’re trying to shake it off the whole way,” says Darling.
The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center ranks among the top 10% of VAs and is a leader in its telehealth initiatives.
Darling says, “There are a lot of people who could use the help, and I think this is a great way to reach out and help solve that problem. There is nothing more comfortable than being in your own home.”