EL PASO CO. — Now that the United States has fully withdrawn troops from Afghanistan, more active duty military and veterans are reaching out for help. One app that offers mental health services was created by two Fort Carson veterans. The app is called "Objective Zero," and was created by the veterans based on their own personal experience.
Justin Miller, one of the co-founders and story teller for the organization, recalls a day in July 2015 around 4 o'clock in the morning, when we was struggling mentally after returning home from the military.
"I just started falling apart. I was sitting on the edge of my bed with a pistol in my hand, and I was ready to quit," said Miller, an 11-year U.S. Army Veteran.
Miller then gave Chris Mercado a call, who's also a U.S. Army Veteran and was stationed at Fort Carson with Miller.
"When I was on that call, I asked him what he was going through and how he's feeling. I just sat there and listened without judging him or trying to solve all of his problems, and I was worried," said Mercado, who served in army for 23 years and is the operations director and co-founder for the organization. "I'm not a trained therapist or counselor, but all I could do was offer a listening ear and be a sympathetic friend."
"We talked on the phone about why I joined, and he gave me a different perspective on how life was going," said Miller.
The six-hour long phone call between the two veterans saved Miller's life and is the inspiration behind Objective Zero.
The 501C3 non-profit is "using technology to combat suicide in our military community among our active duty service members, reserves, national guardsman, and our veterans," said Mercado.
Objective Zero is a free app anyone can download on their phone. It connects users to a nationwide support group and mental health resources.
"We're accomplishing that by connecting them to 24/7 peer support through voice, video or text message," said Mercado.
Users can pick up the phone at any time of the day and get help and talk to a veteran on the other end, just like Miller did.
"During that conversation, I was in such a bad spot that all I cared abut was making it through the night, and I didn't believe I had a story," said Miller.
However, Miller's story has helped so many others, including the nearly 10,000 app users last year.
"That's when it really set in like wow, we have survived now going on five years, and saving lives," said Miller. "The app is being used every single day and that's when I realized talking to somebody really can save lives. Why not have this in every soldier's or service member's phone?"
The main goal of Objective Zero is helping prevent the nearly 20 suicides among veterans each day, and letting them know, they are not alone.
"We need to as a nation come together and do this because, if we don't come together as a nation, we're never going to solve this problem," said Miller.
"Just be there, and be willing to listen, and sometimes that's all it takes to make a difference in somebody's life," said Mercado.
The founders also said they've seen a 254% increase in users accessing the app in the past month. There's also been an 83% increase with users accessing activities, training and inspirational quotes within the app; a 776% increase in users connecting to the veterans crisis hot line through the app, a 132% increase in users reaching out to be trained in crisis prevention, and an 85% increase in text messages being sent.
If you'd like to help, you can also get trained on crisis prevention, and have life-changing conversations with service members across the country.
Another way of helping is encouraging and veterans or active duty military you know, to download the app and have it as a resource on their phone whenever they need it.
For more information about Objective Zero, clock here.