Vets Turn To Parrots To Help Cope With PTSD

A parrot sanctuary lets veterans care for exotic birds while they care for themselves.

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Mark Simmons sits with Amazon parrots at Serenity Park, where birds and people overcome trauma together. Via CBS News

Birds who fell victim to abuse and neglect are now healing with others going through their own troubles.

Serenity Park Sanctuary pairs exotic birds with military veterans to help cope with post-traumatic stress disorder, CBS News reports. The parrot preserve occupies 20 acres of the V.A. Medical Center in West Los Angeles and is tended primarily by vets who are recovering from the trauma of combat.

Matt Simmons sits with Amazon parrots at Serenity Park, where birds and people overcome trauma together. Via CBS News

“I think she immediately saw something in me that I needed, you know?” Mike Flennikan, who served a combat tour in Vietnam, and later spent time in prison, told the news outlet. “I mean, she makes me feel like I’m important to her, you know? And I can’t explain it because I don’t know enough about parrots or birds or anything, but it’s just a great feeling.”

Serenity Park was founded by clinical psychologist Lorin Lindner, PhD, MPH. Previously, she took veterans she worked with to Earth Angel Parrot Sanctuary in Ojai, California, which she founded 20 years ago.

Mike Flennikan and an African Grey have a consistent breakfast routine. Via CBS News

“All of a sudden I’d see this transformation come over them,” Lindner told CBS News. “They’d be holding the birds in their arms and calling them sweet terms, and I hadn’t seen that in the group therapy I’d been doing with them.”

Ten years ago, Lindner asked the V.A. Medical Center for land to establish a few bird cages. With money gathered solely on donations she then created Serenity Park.

The birds at Serenity Park, like this male and female Eclectus pair, have experienced abuse or abandonment. Via CBS News

The Serenity Park birds were abandoned or neglected, which is how they came to the refuge. The people who care for them also had difficult times, to put it lightly.

“There is an unspoken communication between one sentient being that has suffered trauma and another,” Serenity Park operations manager Matt Simmons, who served in the Navy and kept track of bomb damage and body counts, told the news outlet. “And you feel that.”

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