Wounded war veteran and former winner of Dancing with the Stars, J.R. Martinez made a stop in the Quad Cities on Saturday to speak out about the negative stigma often associated with mental illness.
Martinez served in the US Armed Forces in Iraq and suffered severe burns to 34-percent of his body when his vehicle ran over a bomb. Thirty-four surgeries and 13 years later, he uses his experiences to highlight not only his physical wounds but his mental ones as well.
He made a stop at a local hospital to talk with a room full of rehab patients. And Martinez finished his night as the key note speaker at an event put on by the Vera French Foundation and Genesis. WQAD News 8 got the chance to talk to Martinez in a one-on-one interview.
"When you hear mental health, people naturally go to a place where they say that person's crazy. That person needs help. And it's just not like that," says Martinez.
For Martinez mental illness is something he struggles with even to this day. He says the best thing someone can do is come out and admit there's something wrong.
"Just seek help. You're not alone. You're not the first or the last person this has ever happened to," says Martinez.
And if you're on the other side of mental illness, he says it's best to just listen to those who need help.
"If we all just make the time instead of thinking about agendas and tasks and listen a little more, we might be able to save lives," says Martinez.
Martinez says 22 veterans commit suicide everyday due to mental illness.