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MAKING A MARK: Veteran encourages laughter as mental health therapy

The pandemic has had a major impact on mental wellness. "The Laugh Therapist" Vernard Hines is taking conversations about mental health and PTSD to an unusual stage.

NORFOLK, Va. — It's a familiar proverb to some--"laughter is the best medicine." But mental health is no laughing matter.

"People can use laughter to bring out a subject that is very taxing," said retired Army Sgt. Vernard Hines.

Known as The Laugh Therapist, Hines said he found the power of comedy after returning home from Iraq.

"Being a person with PTSD, I would shut down a lot," said Hines. "I went to a therapist, and I always continued to laugh."

Through the pandemic, Hines has posted comedic videos with his family online. 

"We just do it just to bless people, just to have people to laugh throughout the day," said Hines. "Because laughter can alleviate a lot of stress, even for that moment."

As a certified peer recovery specialist, he also leads serious conversations about the mental impact of trauma.

"What I want to do is gain your trust," said Hines. "And once I gain your trust, my job then is to give you resources."

Hines said his mission is to fight the stigma around PTSD and help people heal.

"They call it 'post-traumatic stress disorder', but I call it 'processing traumatic situations differently,'" said Hines.

"You can still live with baggage. But if you have excess baggage, just like getting on a plane, it's gonna cost you something," said Hines. "There are people who are counting on us to get the help that we need in order to be productive in their life."

Hines posts new videos several times a week. You can visit his website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube pages.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, the National Alliance on Mental Illness can help. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is also available to assist in a crisis.