By Stephanie Dolan
Depression is an illness that many people get away with hiding … at least for a short time. But it will still cause sadness and a lack of interest in activities. Depression can also lead to withdrawal from loved ones as well as a deficiency of energy.
In 2008, the Veterans Administration estimated that approximately one in three veterans visiting primary care clinics had some symptoms of depression, that one in five had serious symptoms that suggested the need for further evaluation and that one in eight to 10 had major depression that required either therapy or antidepressants as treatment.
Robert Felvus of Greenwood is one such veteran. He was a specialist in the U.S. Army for eight years.
“At the time I enlisted I had already been battling with low self-esteem and body weight issues,” he said. “Going in was probably the best thing for me at that time. It gave me the motivation I needed to better myself and my life. My father was in the military, so it was always kind of assumed that I would follow in his path. It wasn’t too much of a culture shock going in. I knew what I was getting into. I knew at some point I would be deployed. We just weren’t sure how long (Operation) Enduring Freedom (the official name used by the U.S. government for the Global War on Terrorism) would last.
Sadly, the effects of these positive changes didn’t last long.
“It was not too long after I got to my first unit that I rushed into a relationship that she wasn’t ready for,” Felvus said. “She wasn’t ready for the military lifestyle. Having to deal with the stress of those issues and being low in the military – you’re kind of expected to be the workhorse until you get more rank and move up. I was always the one having to stay late and pull extra duties. It put a lot of stress on that marriage. With my NCO (non-commissioned officer) being constantly on my case about staying underweight it just added to the poor self-image going in even though I had already found a sense of pride in becoming a soldier.”
Felvus was deployed to Afghanistan. He was stationed just outside Kandahar City.
“I didn’t really get to interact too much with the people,” he said. “I was at a small forward operating base – there were some attacks on the base. Some people tried to rush through the entrance point and they didn’t make it, thankfully. There were a couple of rocket attacks. They didn’t land in the base. That’s just because they were still trying to walk in the rockets. They would fire one to see where it landed, make an adjustment and just move it in step by step.”
The breaking point
The stress of these attacks and the constant barrage of harassment from his NCO, coupled with finding out his wife was texting with another soldier, led to Felvus’ first suicide attempt.
“I had placed my rifle between my legs and sat down to lean over the barrel,” he said. “I stayed there in that position for about two hours just talking to myself, thinking about everything before I actually did something. It was about that time that my partner on duty came back from chow hall. He went and got the NCO and they got me to the chaplain that was on the base, but that was about the only help that I got. When I came back from the deployment it was as if everything got swept under the rug.”
Felvus bought a personal firearm and the suicidal thoughts continued to plague him.
“It all perpetuated and snowballed,” he said. “I had bought a personal firearm. Not for the intended use of ending my life but there were several nights that I would take it out of its case and the thoughts would really come back.”
It was 2016 when Felvus left active duty and went to the reserves.
“I was with a military intelligence unit out of Cincinnati and the NCO I had there saw my current weight and what I used to weigh and he could tell that there was something going on with me,” he said. They got me to the Cincinnati VA to talk to a psychiatrist there. It was there I started getting the help that I needed.”
One positive step at a time
He met his wife, Sierra, around that same time.
“I was meeting another friend at the gym that she had worked at, and she and I just got to talking and hit it off,” Felvus said. “We were married Sept. 9 of 2017.”
Another positive step for Felvus was enrolling in MyComputerCareer, an ACCET (Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training) IT certification and training school with seven physical campuses nationwide, including Indianapolis. Online education is also available at the school, which helps smooth the transition from military into civilian life and is endorsed by the American Legion – Indiana and Texas departments.
“After hearing about it from my counselor at the VA I decided to go ahead and give it a try,” he said. “I’ve always had an interest in technology. This seemed like a quick road I could easily follow.”
Now, Felvus has graduated and will go on to be a teacher’s assistant with MyComputerCareer.
“I’ll help the students get caught up on any work that they’re missing or if the teacher needs help with setting up for a hands-on lab,” he said. “I help get that set up if the students have any questions about their homework or the program itself. I’m there to help answer it. Just kind of like a built-in tutor.”
Felvus also said that the environment on the campus is inviting and friendly.
“When I first started there after the first couple of classes I knew it would be someplace I’d want to work,” he said. “The MyComputerCareer family is designed to help you quickly achieve your own turnaround in your life. It may seem like it’s a tech school or another online school but it is the total opposite. We as instructors are fully invested in helping students to succeed. We work with them even after graduation. If they have a question at their job they can call us up and we’ll be more than happy to help them figure out the solution that they’re looking for. It’s not just another online school out for money. Don’t worry about not knowing anything about computers or not knowing the material that’s being taught. At some point during the course you’re going to have the ‘eureka’ moment and things will start falling into place.”
“Robert is a perfect example of a veteran student who came to us looking for structure and a sense of purpose,” MyComputerCareer Indianapolis Campus Director Paul Wolf said. “MyComputerCareer is set up to do just that while helping veteran students prepare for the world beyond service. There are many structural similarities between the military and the IT world that provide a smoother transition to civilian life. Robert is the perfect example of the type of student that we look for. He is driven, dedicated and committed to making the transition to a new career. For me personally, this is truly what we are all about.”
“I’ve not felt this good in a very long time,” Felvus said. “My life is moving in a positive direction. My wife and I are thinking about expanding our family. We are financially stable. This has been the best step that I’ve taken so far.”
For more information on MyComputerCareer, go to mycomputercareer.edu.