Update: The MRCC Director, Panayiota Bertzikis, is threatening veteran with legal action for telling the truth.
This story is the epitome of unhealthy in the MST community. Panayiota Bertizikis committed the ultimate betrayal and proved that she is not healthy enough to help other veterans in crisis. If you reach out to this advocate feeling suicidal, she will send you an e-mail referring you to the Veterans Crisis Line then contact the police instead of helping the veteran work through the crisis. Once the police are contacted, they will come to your home, force you outside, make you get in the police cruiser, and take you to the hospital so you can get evaluated. Not only is this harmful to MST survivors but it is a very inappropriate response to a veteran who may be reaching out for help.
If a veteran tells you that they are feeling suicidal or even hints to feeling suicidal, please do not ever call the police without checking with the veteran first, or referring them to the Veteran Crisis Hotline (1-800-273-TALK). Once you contact the police, the protocol is for the police to take the veteran to the hospital. This is not always the best response and can actually make things worse for a MST survivor. Why? Because you lose your freedom of movement. Taking control away from a MST survivor is the worst possible thing a person could do, especially when the original trigger of the PTSD was due to betrayal, losing control, & feeling overwhelmed.
Once the police are contacted, the veteran must go with them in the back of the cruiser (locked up), must go to the hospital to be evaluated (loss of movement), must take off all of their clothes (in case you hang yourself with your jacket), has to surrender their phone (you might beat yourself with the phone?), and then has to wait for others to determine whether or not you are suicidal. But before they make the decision, you have to answer hundreds of questions that brings up all the things that gave you PTSD to explain why the veteran is responding in said fashion. Having feelings of suicide is completely different then someone who is going to commit suicide. If I was going to commit suicide, I would not tell anyone that I was going to do it, I would just do it.
Panayiota Bertzikis acted irresponsible when she automatically contacted the police without checking in with the veteran first, or checking with others like friends and family as to the state of mind of said veteran. She actually made the PTSD worse by pulling this move. Not only is she harmful to other veterans but she is vindictive. Please steer clear of this person. Of course the veteran was released from the hospital with no incident because the professionals understood the vindictive nature of this advocate’s response to a veteran in crisis. As a matter of fact, they recognized that because she ignored the veteran then sicked the cops on them that she was in fact the cause of the original trigger.
Kudos to the local police department for treating the veteran with kindness, empathy, and understanding. The police department was simply following protocol because they don’t know if the veteran is suicidal or not. They must take every precaution to ensure that the veteran is safe given the high suicide rates among veterans. Despite the trigger of being detained, the veteran submitted to the procedure and explained what caused the initial PTSD crisis. Luckily, the officers who responded to the call were true professionals and very understanding of why the veteran was upset with this particular advocate.
The only positive that comes from this situation is that the veteran learned of some local resources available to them year round. So now the veteran has both the Department of Veteran Affairs to turn to and this local crisis center. The veteran can contact this local agency in the future and they will come to the home and do an assessment and help you work through the downward spirals of PTSD that do make you feel suicidal. Suicide is not the answer. It is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. But it is completely normal when one has PTSD to feel suicidal and want to die just so the pain will end.