Veterans don't usually ask for help, Sergio Valenzuela says.
"We have the mentality: 'I don't need help. There's nothing wrong with me.' If you have to ask for help, we see that as a sign of weakness," the director of the documentary Iron Will: Veterans' Battle with PTSD told GoMN.
But when 20 veterans per day are ending their own lives, it's evidence that the prevailing mentality is not serving them well.
The makers of Iron Willhope the documentary that makes its world premiere at the Twin Cities Film Festival on Saturday will help change the way veterans and civilians alike think about post traumatic stress disorder.
They describe the movie as a journey into post traumatic stress through veterans' eyes – highlighting the challenges they're up against, their courage in facing those challenges, and some of the treatments that are helping them.
Valenzeula knows about the mentality of veterans because he's one of them. And he knows plenty of others – from his days on the battlefields of Iraq and from nearly three years spent making Iron Will, which is based on the experiences of about 30 veterans.
So what does it take to break through a veteran's reluctance to ask for help?
Tim Vandesteeg, a Bloomington native who co-produced Iron Will, says it often starts with listening to fellow veterans.
"Once they heard others talking about what they've been through – then they wanted to open up," Vandesteeg told GoMN. "It's easier to get them to help others. Then they realize they could use some help, too."
When someone does step forward to ask for help with PTSD, what kind of help is available?
That's another place where there's more work to be done. But the options have been expanding. Visits to a psychiatrist and medications are still standbys, but Iron Will also highlights alternative treatments, which include going fly fishing and writing songs.
Valenzuela says having a wide range of treatments available to veterans is important "because every person is different – we come from so many walks of life."
There's no denying that post traumatic stress can be a grim topic. Vandesteeg, who lost a younger brother to it, says he wants to get people to care about it and not turn the other way when it comes up.
For Valenzuela a commitment to the issue is part of the bond he feels with veterans he considers his brothers and sisters.
"We had to be there for each other – in basic training, in our garrison, in combat," he says. 'And now that we're back, we've gotta be there for each other. It hasn't stopped. Your lives depend on each other when you're in combat but it doesn't stop there."
Iron Will makes its world premiere in St. Louis Park at the Showplace ICON Theater with screenings starting at 7:15 and 7:30 Saturday night.
Because of strong interest in the documentary, the Film Festival has added a third showing on Tuesday Oct. 25 at noon.
Jatin Setia, the executive director of the Twin Cities Film Festival, said in a statement it's an honor to host the premiere of Iron Will.
"We find it our duty to spotlight causes and social justice issues each year and in 2016, we're putting our attention on Veteran Support. The conversation about PTSD and how we as a community should do whatever we can to help our veterans is a crucial one," he said.