Iraq war vet Mike Whiter has combined his love for photography with his desire to help others battling post-traumatic stress disorder to launch a project called “Operation Overmed.”
Whiter told NBC10 in Philadelphia, he joined the Marines at 19 and eventually became a Staff Sergeant. After the Iraq War, Whiter was diagnosed with PTSD and was medically discharged. He went to a VA Hospital which placed him on medication.
“Over a period of five years I was on 40 different medications. Everything from anti-depressants to anti-anxiety medication,” he said. Wanting to find an alternative to all the prescription pills, Whiter started using medical marijuana. “I threw away my pills and my quality of life is better than it has been in years. I think it is very important to note that cannabis is not a cure for PTSD, but in combination with therapy, it can open a whole new world for you.”
After enrolling at the Art Institute of Philadelphia, Whiter says he was having a hard time photographing subjects in the studio, so his professor suggested he start taking pictures of veterans.
Whiter launched Operation Overmed in June 2. So far, the series has gotten attention from the medical marijuana community, but Whiter hopes the project will reach a wider audience.
Among the photos Included in the series are some very provocative shots of veterans. In one photo a veteran is seen holding his revolver and placing pills in the chambers instead of bullets. Clearly Whiter trying to make a statement here that all these prescription meds are deadly, and it’s much healthier to find alternative routes whether it yoga, acupuncture or pot.
“Twenty-seven states report 22 veteran suicides a day,” Whiter said. “A lot of that can be attributed to the medications because guys with PTSD who are already suicidal are taking medications that have increased risks of suicidal thoughts or actions listed as a side effect,” he told NBC10. “I was one of those guys. I was a slave. I was in my house stuck in my head for like five years man, just on all these pills.”