Asking for help—especially with mental health issues—is not an easy undertaking for military service members, who have been held up against society’s outdated image of the stoic warrior for far too long.
It can be equally difficult for the rest of us to comfort service members with PTSD, anxiety, and depression, because we struggle to identify with their experiences.
Thankfully, society is just starting to outgrow the mental health stigma and break through this barrier, a movement spearheaded by companies like PRoZE.
PRoZE has gone far beyond offering military discounts on their CBD products, launching a multi-pronged initiative to help active and retired service members with mental illnesses using the support structure they’ve been trained to lean on (their fellow service members) while creating new avenues for support.
We interviewed the founder of PRoZE and several of his partners in this initiative to learn more about how they are supporting active and retired military personnel in need of mental health support.
Here is what they had to say.
PRoZE Named Official CBD of the Mental Health Network
When we first asked PRoZE founder Sanjeev “Jeevers” Javia about how his company’s products became the official CBD of the Mental Health Network (MHN), he admitted, “We didn’t even know what the Mental Health Network was.”
Jeevers and company soon learned after being offered the title—thanks to the work of PRoZE advisory board member Dr. David Vigerust, who introduced PRoZE to MHN founder Kristin Walker—just how powerful this relationship could be in terms of reaching people who need CBD the most.
Since its inception in 2017, the MHN has created 90 shows in total with the aim of providing a stigma-free environment for objective, informed discussion surrounding mental health.
Everything from narcissistic personality disorder to alcoholism is covered by podcast and show hosts, who have invited hospitals, treatment centers, and other professionals to share their insights.
To PRoZE, the MHN was a chance to bring CBD to what seemed like a tailor-fit audience, and according to Kristin, Jeevers and PRoZE are “the person and the company that will eradicate the stigma around CBD.”
A Fruitful Partnership Is Born
Upon exploring the nature and origin of this partnership more with Kristin, we learned that the MHN doesn’t take the matter of evaluating potential partners lightly.
“When we pick a product to support and support us, they’re put through rigorous testing by the podcasters,” she explained, which is a testament to both PRoZE’s product quality and the MHN’s commitment to their listeners.
After meeting Jeevers, Kristin knew PRoZE was right for MHN.
“Jeevers is infectious, and I say that in the best possible way,” said Kristin. “So, of course, we hit it off.”
“If he said to me, ‘Kristin, tomorrow I’m going to make an antifungal cream for your toes,’ I would buy that only for the rest of my life. That’s how much I trust him.”
Kristin herself uses PRoZE CBD products, which she believes has helped her deal with stress and experience fewer stress-related illnesses.
Now, podcasters who promote PRoZE CBD have direct access to Jeevers and the PRoZE team, who offer a wealth of resources for anyone looking to learn more.
Jeevers Enlists Rudy Reyes of Force Blue
If anyone can package the relentlessly positive energy of Jeevers and crew for a military audience, it’s U.S. Marine Rudy Reyes.
In addition to serving honorably in Iraq and Afghanistan as a member of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, Reyes has racked up a long list of accolades, including professional acting credits (most notably, HBO’s Generation Kill) and the co-founding of Force Blue, detailed below.
In our conversation with him, we learned that Rudy felt that he was always on edge after his deployments, and that even though his mind and body still felt strong, his “spirit was down.”
A friend then introduced Rudy to Jeevers and PRoZE CBD, who impressed him with their positivity and operations.
Not long after, Rudy found success with PRoZE CBD products, especially NODZZZ and NERVE, which helped him recover from both physical (knee surgery) and mental issues.
He was greatly interested in the holistic approach that PRoZE and their products bring to health, not just for his own benefit, but because he knew it was a perfect fit for his foundation, Force Blue.
How PRoZE and Force Blue Partnered to Serve Veterans
Force Blue is a non-profit marine conservation organization with a twist: their divers are military veterans.
Rudy recruits and trains teams of commandos to restore coral reefs using leading technologies, as in their “100 Yards of Hope” mission in partnership with NFL Green that targeted an at-risk reef off the coast of South Florida.
As Jeevers became more aware of both the prevalence of mental health issues among veterans and the fitness of his product for just such a cause, he jumped at the chance to work with Force Blue.
In a weekly event they’re sponsoring called “Force Blue Fridays,” PRoZE is working to introduce the Force Blue community of veterans to their CBD in hopes that it will help them like it is helping Rudy.
In his words, the goal is to create a “better homecoming” for returning (or long-returned) veterans.
PRoZE Meets Veteran Advocate Ryan Emerson-Steensma
As a special ops marine and contractor, Ryan Emerson-Steensma operated in 73 countries across multiple deployments.
He then spent a decade in law enforcement, after which it took him a decade to feel like himself again.
“I’ve run the gamut in terms of careers that can do a number on your mental health,” Ryan explained to us, a path that led to a host of PTSD-related symptoms.
For years, Ryan was in a dark place, struggling with sleep and trudging through conventional treatment (i.e., being loaded up on drugs), until he finally discovered PRoZE CBD a year ago.
Becky White-Steensma, Ryan’s wife and founder of a fascial stretch therapy clinic known as the HEALIX Center, was the one who encouraged Ryan to try CBD after she was introduced to Jeevers and his brand’s products.
“My initial reaction was, ‘Get that snake oil away from me,’” said Ryan.
After enough encouragement and a few trial runs, his sleep improved to the point where he could drop his prescription meds just a week later.
“I felt like Father Time with a beard to my knees, like I just stayed at Holiday Inn Express,” he said with a chuckle.
Today, Ryan takes PRoZE products every day, specifically SHIELD in the morning, GUMEEZ throughout the day, and NODZZZ spray at night.
“I don’t want to sound like a vacuum sales guy, but I’m telling you, this stuff changed my life,” said Ryan.
How Jeevers and Ryan are Serving Veterans
Like Rudy Reyes, Ryan is reaching out to his personal network of fellow service members to get the product that saved his life into the hands of every combat veteran he can.
In order to accomplish that, he is putting together a roundtable discussion with well-known people in the veterans community like Rudy who are affected by PTSD and similar conditions.
This panel aims to create resources (product samples, video content, etc.) for use in lobbying key decision-makers at various positions, including the congressional Armed Services Committees, the VA in DC, and others.
The hope is to see funds appropriated toward CBD interests, perhaps including a clinical study to test the safety and efficacy of CBD with veterans, and ultimately to provide veterans with the option of trying CBD.
“Is it going to be done quickly? No,” admitted Ryan. “Could it be done in a year? I think so.”
iRel8 Joins the Cause
Both of the entrepreneurs behind the peer-to-peer mental health platform iRel8 have been personally affected by depression, a shared experience that fueled this altruistic project.
Dion Gonzales (whom we interviewed) and partner Jeff Dorchester created the iRel8 app in 2017 to give military, first responders, and all non-military communities a place to anonymously discuss their mental health issues with each other.
As Dion explained to us, both he and Jeff withheld their experiences with depression from each other because of social stigmas surrounding mental health.
“Guys don’t talk about this” was a justification of Jeff’s that Dion provided to us, before admitting he used the same kinds of excuses to prevent sharing his own experience.
This is exactly the kind of barrier that the app aims to get around.
“People should be able to talk about mental health just like an ACL surgery,” asserted Dion.
So far, iRel8 has provided a platform for people to do just that.
Today, there are more than 20,000 users from all kinds of communities using the app, including military personnel, celebrities, athletes, musicians, clergy, and more.
iRel8 even made enough noise to catch the attention of Microsoft, who ported and rebuilt the app for their own systems free of charge.
How PRoZE and iRel8 Are Serving Veterans
Kristen from the Mental Health Network served as the nexus between the iRel8 team and PRoZE CBD in this case, introducing the founders to Jeevers.
Seeing the potential of PRoZE CBD products for their user base, the iRel8 team decided to become affiliates, meaning they sponsor links to PRoZE products within the app (and receive a small commission on sales).
In turn, Jeevers promotes iRel8.
Because Dion and Jeff truly believe in the products (Dion uses NODZZZ on a nightly basis), their primary goal with the affiliate campaign is not monetization, but using these products to strengthen mental health support for users of iRel8.
How to Get Involved
As we navigated this fatefully drawn-together network of stubbornly devoted veterans advocates, we learned a few new things about just how meaningful CBD can be to this population, not to mention the importance of community.
COVID-19 has shined a glaring light on community, a fundamental human need that grows stronger (yet less accessible) when we feel depressed, scared, and anxious.
Thanks to PRoZE and their prudently selected partners, any military service member who feels this way can turn to the PRoZE veterans initiative and connect with the people and the products they need.
Right now, this initiative is disseminating informational resources focused on nutrition, mindset, and spiritual health throughout key players in the mental health community; creating a board of mental health clinicians; and creating communities wherever they can to foster a healing environment for veterans.
The best way to get involved is to support PRoZE, support their partners, and fight against the stigma surrounding mental illness by sharing as much of your own experiences as you can.