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Colorado soldier finds social media fame by sharing mental health journey

Just before separating from the armed forces, servicemembers' most common medical diagnosis was mental health disorders, a new study has found. Mental disorders, almost never diagnosed at the beginning of military service, became the top diagnostic category at the end. (U.S. Air Force)

At his lowest, Ryan Griffis started talking to his phone.

He pressed record and got his thoughts out, not really expecting to share the videos. At first, it was for him. He didn’t know how else to talk about the bad dreams or frightening flashbacks. He didn’t know those months in Iraq would stay with him like this.

“It was shocking to me,” he said. “I had heard of this happening to other guys. I never expected it to be me.”

Then he started sharing the videos on TikTok in 2020. The views started coming in.

People saw a grown man talking about things, as Griffis sees it, men are often known for avoiding: feelings.

He talked about the struggles of growing up in a small Kentucky town and a tumultuous family life. He talked about his high school years, when he saw a way out through the military. He talked about the ways life has brought him down.

“I just want people to know it’s alright to not be alright,” Griffis said. “I want people to know that no matter what they’re going through, they can make it through.”

He has learned that the hard way.

“I came from nothing,” he said.

He has also learned what helps. Talking about it all.

Griffis’ videos, complete with a strong Southern accent, have touched a nerve, as evidenced by more than a million followers on TikTok and daily messages from people who say “thank you” and “I feel that, too.”

“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from,” he said. “As long as you are consistent and believe in yourself, you’re on the right path.”

He and his wife, Amber, and their two girls moved to Colorado Springs this year after being transferred to Fort Carson.

TikTok views have created other opportunities. He and Amber released a song called “All We’ve Been Through,” which is available on Spotify.

A documentary about Griffis, created by a Kentucky-based videography company, is due out soon on his YouTube channel. A billboard promoting the film, which was raised in his hometown, shows a photo of Griffis and the words, “County native inspires millions.”

He hopes to inspire millions more. In the process, Griffis has found healing over the last two years. It clicked when somebody asked him how it felt to see himself on the billboard.

When Griffis looked up, he saw a man who has known lows. He saw a man smiling anyway.

“I’m not having to fake a smile anymore,” he said. “I struggle every day, but I’m still moving forward.”

He wants to inspire others to do the same. Griffis, who is currently a captain in the Army, hopes to move forward with a motivational speaking career. He even has a slogan: “I won’t stop until I’m heard around the world.”


(c) 2022 The Gazette

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