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President Bush and Prince Harry Issue International Call to Address the Invisible Wounds of War

In a conversation with warriors at the 2016 Invictus Games, both advocate to erase the stigma surrounding these wounds

May 9, 2016

Orlando, FL -- Yesterday, President George W. Bush and the Bush Institute convened the Invictus Games Symposium on Invisible Wounds, part of the Invictus Games Orlando 2016, an international adaptive sporting event for wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans. 

President Bush, who is also serving as the Honorary Chairman of the 2016 Invictus Games, outlined his objective of helping returning servicemen and women overcome their invisible wounds, such as post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury, while improving outcomes for their transition back to civilian life.

“I have dedicated the rest of my life to honoring the service and sacrifice of the men and women with whom I served as Commander-in-Chief,” said President Bush. “Our returning warriors are a tremendous asset to their home countries.  They can lead at home the way they led on the battlefield, and make significant contributions.”  President Bush concluded by noting that, “the purpose of this Symposium is to examine whether we are allocating our resources appropriately to address and treat these invisible wounds.”

The Symposium, attended by Invictus Games competitors, military spouses, medical experts, military officials, and policy experts from 14 countries, marks the official launch of the Bush Institute’s initiative on Veteran Wellness.  This new work will focus on increased understanding of invisible wounds, helping veterans overcome barriers to seeking care for these injuries, and recognizing the role we each play in connecting service men and women to care. 

His Royal Highness Prince Harry, patron of the Invictus Games, joined President Bush’s conversation and added that, “The first step for addressing these injuries has to be admitting you need to seek help.  And unfortunately, it’s not part of these guys’ DNA.”  He continued, “The stigma surrounding mental health is a big issue.  And being able to talk about it early on is key to making a successful recovery.” 

To guide the Veterans Wellness work, the Bush Institute commissioned a survey about the attitudes and perceptions of transitioning warriors of the public in the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom.  The findings, slotted to be released later this month, indicate that post-9/11 warriors acknowledge invisible wounds as legitimate wounds of war, but approximately 80 percent of those surveyed indicated that embarrassment, shame, and employment concerns were barriers to seeking care.

Speakers and participants included Dr. Jim Kelly, Terri Tanielian, Professor Neil Greenberg, and General Peter Chiarelli (ret.), U.S.A., who discussed steps to outline the importance of removing the stigma that prevents some warriors from getting the help they need, and ways to support them as they continue to lead in their communities.  Award-winning ESPN journalist Jeremy Schaap served as moderator.  Both photos and video of the event are available. 

As a follow-up to this discussion, on May 24 in Dallas, President Bush, Terri Tanielian of Rand, and a number of Team U.S.A. competitors will participate in an “Engage at the Bush Center” public event to recap the Invictus Games.  The program will also feature highlights from ESPN’s Invictus Games coverage and powerful stories about the role of sport in the journey of recovery for so many injured veterans. Ticket information is available here.

About the Bush Institute:

Housed within the George W. Bush Presidential Center, the George W. Bush Institute is an action-oriented, non-partisan policy organization with the mission of cultivating leaders, fostering policies to solve today’s most pressing challenges, and taking action to save and change lives. The work of the Bush Institute is inspired by the principles that guided the Bushes in public life: education is the foundation of a successful life, freedom is a universal human desire, free enterprise is the engine of economic prosperity, and every human life is precious.

To learn more, visit www.bushcenter.org.