The Heroic Hearts Project aims to make psychedelic therapy more accessible to war veterans. Here, Jesse Gould explains why ayahuasca has so much potential in helping to heal combat trauma.
Frustrated and hopeless over the lack of accessible and effective treatment for his severe anxiety and PTSD, Jesse Gould decided to try the plant medicine he’d overheard in the news: ayahuasca. During the week-long retreat, he instantly saw the healing potential of the Amazonian brew and knew that it could be a powerful tool in healing the mental struggles of his fellow veterans.
In this interview, available in full below, Jesse shares with Lorna his personal healing journey and his experience running Heroic Hearts and helping save the lives of those who served the country which fails to serve them back.
Jesse served in Afghanistan, and found returning to society a huge struggle. There wasn’t a clear path for how to improve his mental health, without taking medications. Hoping to avoid this route, he discovered ayahuasca. After quitting his unfulfilling job, he travelled to Peru to participate in several ayahuasca ceremonies.
While ayahuasca presented Jesse with many challenges, it also drastically changed his life, and opened up to him the potential of psychedelic therapy.
Empowered by this experience, he founded the Heroic Hearts Project in 2017. Its aim was to spearhead the acceptance and use of ayahuasca therapy as a means of addressing the current mental health crisis among veterans.
Veterans have some of the highest suicide rates in the world, and often suffer from PTSD and depression after they return from combat. Integrating into civilian life can be profoundly challenging, and there is a lack of support beyond the basic practicalities. Most veterans are simply offered talk therapy and courses of medications – which can sometimes be effective, but still leave a vast number of suffering people.
The Department of Veteran Affairs is limited in its stance on psychedelic alternatives. This is mostly due to the legal status of psychedelic therapies. However, organizations like Heroic Hearts have more freedoms in being able to offer veterans a powerful alternative to typical psychiatric treatments.
Jesse explains how the challenge of the ayahuasca experience can be especially useful for veterans, helping them face the difficult aspects of their trauma and begin a path to healing that feels more whole and complete.
Heroic Hearts offers veterans education and community around psychedelic substances, and also organizes small retreats to legal ayahuasca ceremonies where veterans can begin their healing. As Jesse emphasizes, ayahuasca is not a magic pill – but the beginning of a healing journey that can be more effective and powerful than anything currently available.
In this interview, you’ll discover:
- How it feels to come back home from combat with a scarred soul and without a viable path to healing
- How different psychedelics, substances, and healing practices fare with different kinds of individuals suffering from war-related trauma
- What it’s like to take tours of dozens of veterans to have life-changing experiences in the Amazon, and how their healing journeys typically play out
About Jesse Gould
Jesse Gould is a pioneer in psychedelic therapies. As Founder and President of the Heroic Hearts Project, he has spearheaded the research and acceptance of ayahuasca therapy programs for military veterans. His mission is to help military veterans struggling with mental trauma and spread awareness of the benefits that ayahuasca therapies offer as an alternative treatment to pharmaceuticals. Jesse has spoken globally about the benefits of psychedelics on mental health and has been featured in the New York Times and Rolling Stone Magazine and recognized as one of the Social Entrepreneurs To Watch For In 2020 by Cause Artist.
Find Jesse at http://heroicheartsproject.org/