Richard “Rich” Watson served in the United States Air Force for 20 years and has an education in psychology, with additional degrees in education and social sciences. Since his retirement from the military in 2015, he has worked for a veteran service organization in their mental health department. He and his team provide resiliency-based retreats for individuals, couples, and families.

Rich has served as a ward mission leader and elders quorum president (several times each), as a high priest group leader and branch president, in the young mens presidency and bishopric, on the stake high council, and more. He currently resides in Hope Mills, North Carolina, near Fort Bragg, has been happily married for over 22 years, and has four amazing children and one pretty-OK beagle.

Rich Watson and his surfboard


1:15 Introduction

5:15 Conversion story. Joining the Church at 20 years old.

8:15 Rich’s background with the military

10:30 Rich’s education and how he got into mental health

13:40 Therapy isn’t for everyone. There are other options, such as retreats.

16:40 The importance of creating a unit in an elders quorum or Relief Society. There isn’t enough trust to call each other and ask for help.

20:20 Rich’s advice to an instructor to stimulate vulnerability in elders quorum

23:30 Creating circles instead of rows in our classes. How it changes the dynamic.

24:50 Connecting with veterans in our wards. Rich talks about what veterans are struggling with.

29:30 Know the veteran’s background and their family dynamic. The families of veterans have their own struggles.

30:30 Who is considered a veteran?

32:00 Know what type of veteran they are and how long they served

33:00 What to talk about on the first visit with a veteran. What questions to ask.

35:30 Remember that being a veteran is a part of who they are but not all of who they are. Ask them about other aspects of their lives.

36:15 Other things to know about a veteran. What’s their relationship to their spouse? Were there kids involved in their deployments?

37:30 One of the biggest problems for veterans is finding life outside the military because that’s all they’ve known. Finding a job and transferring skills into a different reality can be very difficult for them.

42:00 We all get tied up in our identities. We let titles become our identity. Really it’s only a small piece of us.

43:50 What can a church leader do to help guide someone as their identity is shifting? This could be someone transitioning out of the military or from a leadership role.

  • What’s your why?
  • What are your values?

50:45 The average veteran will have 3 different jobs within the first 4 years of getting out of the military

50:20 Veterans and mental health. Roughly 22 veterans commit suicide everyday. PTSD is also common.

53:00 There are different levels of PTSD. Sometimes it’s clear when someone is struggling and sometimes it’s easy for people to hide.

54:45 Rich explains how he personally was affected by PTSD

59:00 Coping mechanisms for PTSD and mental health. Rich’s are physical fitness, music, and learning to take a moment.

1:01:00 Unhealthy coping mechanisms. These could be pornography, self medicating with prescription drugs, or alcohol. Instead of focusing on the unhealthy behavior, focus on the underlying emotions and thoughts.

1:04:45 The things that have helped Rich the most as he dealt with PTSD

1:06:00 We often hear about PTSD but two other mental health issues that veterans struggle with are survivor’s guilt and moral injury

1:10:00 Knowing what not to say is more important than knowing what to say to people that are struggling. Connection and empathy is more important than saying the right thing.

1:12:40 Let people cry

1:16:00 How leaders can help individuals with moral injury

1:17:50 Check on the family of the veteran. They struggle with the difficulty of caring for their veteran.

1:23:00 What to know about deployments

1:25:00 If you are a leader that isn’t comfortable dealing with mental health then there are plenty of resources out there. Take the time to find those resources and ask for help.


Moral Injury and the Atonement of Jesus Christ: An LDS Guide for Healing the Wounded Soul” by Austin Bowler
Church Resources for Military Members
Thoughts of a Veteran Christian Mental Health Dude Podcast
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