New Film About Metro Atlanta Bank Robbery Focuses On Raising Mental Health Awareness For Black Veterans – WSB-TV Channel 2

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — A new film about a bank robbery in metro Atlanta raises new questions about mental health care for black veterans.

The film titled “Breaking” tells the story of Iraq War veteran Brian Easley being taken hostage in 2017 at a Wells Fargo bank on Windy Hill Road in Cobb County.

When Easley entered the bank in the summer of 2017, he was suffering from severe post-traumatic stress disorder. Easley called the WSB-TV newsroom and said he had a bomb.

Easley vowed not to hurt the hostages, but expressed frustration with veterans after he said he didn’t get his disability check. Easley was shot by police during the incident.

Easley’s struggle with mental illness is central to the film.

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Channel 2 Cobb County Bureau Chief Michele Newell spoke to Morehouse School of Medicine faculty psychiatrist Dr Bakari Vickerson about the struggle black veterans face with mental illness and resources needed by veterans in general.

“By telling his story, you’re not just telling his story, but you’re telling the story of many veterans, black veterans who have gone through a somewhat similar experience. Maybe it didn’t get to the extreme where they felt compelled to go to a bank to hear their challenges or to make sure their challenges were heard. They all go through similar challenges, and often times it can leave a person feeling alone. The feeling that they’ve done so much for this country but haven’t yet received enough, or anything in return. I know some of the issues they faced just growing up here in this country, not to mention serving in the military or serving in combat,” Dr. Vickerson said.

Dr. Vickerson has experience working with black men in the military as well as veterans.

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“I had work experience in the Atlanta VA where I saw veterans come to their outpatient psychiatric clinic and medication management appointments, and also did talk therapy with them. I can’t imagine what they’re actually going through, but often I can feel it through their words or even through their tears,” Dr. Vickerson said.

Dr. Vickerson believes there is a need for more resources.

“Mental health should be a bigger component of military service because the risk is so great. The risk is so great that we should already have something in place to screen and treat veterans as soon as possible,” Dr. Vickerson said.

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