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Meet the Catalyst Finalists: Objective Zero Foundation

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Titus Cornell

 

One phone call changed the lives of Objective Zero Foundation Co-Founder’s Justin Miller and Chris Mercado.

After 12 years of serving as an infantryman, Justin was medically retired and dealing with issues including post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. After repeated nights filled with nightmares, Justin reached his breaking point and was planning to take his life. That same night, Chris saw the signs on social media that Justin, his former comrade, was struggling, so he picked up the phone.

The pair spoke for over 6 hours, helping Justin step back his suicidal thoughts. That call sparked the idea for Objective Zero, a mobile app that connects service members, veterans, their families and caregivers to a nationwide network of peer and civilian support.

Chris and Justin realized that Justin’s experience wasn’t unique – many veterans and service-members struggle every day and they thought the simple act of listening could help save the lives of veterans. Roughly 20 veterans and one current service member take their lives every day, a rate that is twice that of non-veterans. America’s veterans and their families often face unique challenges ranging from reintegrating back into society to locating reliable and timely mental, emotional and health-related

Justin and Chris recruited friends and comrades Ryan Pereira, Blake Bassett, Kayla Bassett, Betsey Mercado and Amy Eastman to serve on the leadership team of Objective Zero. Currently, Objective Zero’s leadership team has more than 60 years of military experience, and they have  know firsthand the mental and physical impact of military service, including from the perspective of family members whose lives may be affected.

Objective Zero focuses on social connectedness and access to wellness resources to combat suicide within the military community. This peer to peer work happens through its mobile app, which enables users throughout the nation to reach out anonymously through text, call or video chat for mental and emotional support. In addition to veteran users, Ambassadors also serve family members and caregivers who are also impacted by military service. Inside the Objective Zero app, users can curate their experience by choosing an Ambassador according to gender, age, location, branch of service and a variety of other categories that enable users to find the perfect fit for them.

We couple our own experiences, perspectives, and education with our deep relationships with mental health professionals, technology experts, other veteran service organizations, and fellow nonprofits to build upon our idea of using technology to bring people together.
Betsey Mercado, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Objective Zero

Objective Zero has users in all 50 states, and the company’s Ambassadors are concentrated in states that have larger numbers of veterans and military installations such as California, Florida, Texas, Virginia, Colorado and Alaska. Objective Zero has garnered regional and national recognition from a variety of institutions including the Congressional Medal of Honor Citizens Awards Program and the Academy of United States Veterans.

Objective Zero brings necessary care, service and support to America’s military community. Thanks to their leadership, our nation is one step closer to Objective Zero’s main strategic goal: to achieve functional zero. Justin and Chris want to reach a point where military service is no longer a distinguishing characteristic of suicide.

We thank Objective Zero for prioritizing the health and wellbeing of America’s servicemen and women and their families. We are proud to have them as a Catalyst Semifinalist!

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