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The topic of depression and suicide has been discussed frequently over the past few weeks. It’s a discussion that UNO senior Michell Blodgett is all too familiar with.
“Just this past week we’ve had some loss, and aside from celebrity deaths, I had another friend who I served with take his life,” Blodgett said. “It’s the sixth person that I’ve worked with and was friends with since I got out that has gone that route. I know in some instances the person can be perfectly fine, and in the next instant, they’re gone.”
The 39-year-old’s recent role in a locally-shot film is working to break the stigma surrounding mental illness and PTSD.
Silence, directed by Michael Spitzer, will be presented at international film festivals as a non-profit film.
“It’s a shorter film, with a music overlay. There won’t be any language barriers,” Blodgett said. “PTSD, it’s not just in America, It’s everywhere and there’s places they know what it is but they just don’t have the word for it, they just don’t have the awareness for it.”
Blodgett was 29 when she joined the Navy as a Seabee, a role she describes as “the construction force of the Navy.”
While her original plan was to join the Air Force, Blodgett said that it was difficult to be recruited at her age.
“When I went to MEPS [Military Entrance Processing Station] I had a lot of waivers because I was older and had tattoos, so they had to do a lot of investigating,” Blodgett said.
Blodgett arrived at MEPS at 4 a.m. and was the last person to be sworn in at 9 p.m.
“It was the last day of the month so all the jobs were basically taken,” Blodgett said. “I only had two job choices. I could be a Seabee, or I could have been a technician on a ship, which you’re basically a plumber on a ship and I did not want to do that.”
Blodgett was determined to join the service for her family.
“At the time, I was a mom of two little ones. I had to take some time off of school to raise my kids, and their father and I weren’t getting along to well as far as financially and everything,” Blodgett said. “I decided that I should join the service to help my family, and I just never expected that they would take me at the age that I was, but they got me recruited. It worked out well, it didn’t work out for the marriage, but it worked out for me and the kids.”
Throughout her five years of active duty, Blodgett said that she learned a lot about herself.
“I grew as a person. I was very introverted and quiet and as far as my relationships and everything I basically didn’t stand up for myself. I grew confidence, now I won’t take crap from anybody. I think that’s probably the biggest thing for me.”
After her deployment was over, Blodgett said that transitioning out of military life was very difficult, but going back to school was the right move for her.
“I know a lot of people who didn’t go into any kind of trade program or school program right after, and a lot of people have even more difficulties just accepting life and I think that’s where a lot of people experience PTSD and suicide,” Blodgett said. “They don’t have that social aspect, or even face-to-face accountability. I’m really glad that I started college right away.”
Blodgett said that UNO’s Veteran’s Office helped with the difficult move into student life.
“It’s difficult to go into school, and you’re thinking, ‘gosh, I’m old. What am I doing here?’ But then you realize that nobody cares how old you are and you have such diversity here. It’s really an accepting school.”
Blodgett said that serving in the Navy was a life changing opportunity.
“There’s a lot of talk about what happens to military members, but honestly I would do it all over again. I got to travel, and I got to meet wonderful people.”
Blodgett plans to graduate in May.