Aug 7, 2019
This week on MIA Radio we
turn our attention to veterans, service members and military
families. MIA has recently launched a new resource for
military veterans which will provide news, personal stories and
resources specific to veterans and their families. So to explain
more about the new resources I am delighted to have been able to
chat with Derek Blumke. Derek is the newest member of the MIA Team
and he is the editor of the new veterans section.
Derek served 12 years in the US Air Force and Michigan Air
National Guard before attending the University of Michigan where he
cofounded Student Veterans of America. For his work, Derek received
the Presidential Volunteer Service Award and was recognised at the
White House by President Barack Obama for his leadership in
supporting returning military veterans.
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- Derek’s time in the US Air Force and Michigan Air National
Guard which saw him deployed to Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.
- How, following his service years, he transitioned to Community
College in 2005 and then went on to the University of
- How he came to feel that veterans were often isolated on
campuses and this drove him to set up an organisation to provide
support and connection for ex-service members, which became
Student Veterans of America.
- That SVA is now the largest student organisation in the US and
also the largest organisation of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in
- That during his three years running SVA, Derek became involved
in legislative action to help send military service members to
college (the Post-911 GI Bill).
- How veterans face unique challenges but shouldn’t be viewed as
somehow broken or in need of specific support.
- That it was post-service experiences that led to Derek’s
realisation that our approach to mental health could be leading to
damage and harm.
- How Derek came to set up a tech company which he describes as
‘the most stressful and challenging time of his life’.
- That these stresses and strains led to being prescribed
psychiatric drugs, initially Adderall but later having Ambien and
Gabapentin added and eventually Zoloft too.
- How the side effects of this cocktail rendered Derek barely
able to function and led to him moving back to Michigan.
- That he stopped socialising, stopped posting on social media
and his social circle reduced because of the effects of the
- How these experiences led to questioning and some research and
how he withdrew from five drugs over a month, with the most issues
coming from the antidepressant Zoloft.
- His description of withdrawal effects including tinnitus, brain
zaps, nausea, fatigue, anxiety and extreme dizziness.
- That he came to read the New York Times article: ‘Many people taking
antidepressants find they cannot quit’ and realised he was
in acute withdrawal.
- That it ultimately took Derek a year to come off the
- How he discovered Mad in America and realised that the messages
in the mainstream mental health world do not do justice to the
experiences that people are having with psychiatric drugs.
- How Derek got involved with MIA and came to lead our news
- The suicide epidemic that has so severely affected the veterans
community and how it results in more deaths than casualties from
- That he hopes that the MIA veterans initiative will be seen as
the equivalent of Yelp for veterans who want to read personal
accounts and learn from unbiased and alternative sources.
- That Derek is starting a new non-profit: Walk There, which is designed to get
people together to walk in their local area.
Mad in America Veterans Resources
Student Veterans of America
The Department of Veterans Affairs
The New York Times: Many
People Taking Antidepressants Discover They Cannot Quit