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.

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

Mark 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

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 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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Comments

  • I enjoyed this article so much because it kinda hit home. Though Im not a vet I am a retired cop who was given an early disability retirement due to job related injuries.
    Not only was I depressed from losing my job but after seeing so many violent crimes, homicides and going to autopsies I was hurting emotionally
    Though A cat lover I fell in love with a cockatoo and I noticed how strongly we connected. And he talked to me knowing when I was in pain. After 6 1/2 years I rescued another cockatoo and my family has grown in the past 20 years rescuing s few more parrots
    Being alone has not been so bad as I have plenty of feathered friends to keep me busy and keep me laughing
    I love animals but the connection with my parrots has been such a blessing
    They dance, sing, talk and I’ve enjoyed posting vids of my birds on You Tube!
    Birds are what I call my Feathered Angels and they truly are amazing!

    Mary Angel July 26, 2016 8:19 am Reply
  • Love that these people and the parrots are helping each other. And the parrots seem healthy and happy.

    Jan Hayes July 26, 2016 2:23 pm Reply
  • My husband has PTSD and a Vietnam vet. A couple a years ago we took a 26 year old Congo African Grey. He was severely abusd and almost dead. My husband picked him up and immediately there was a bond there. He’s completely healed now and the bond between them is incredible to say the least. I truly wish these Featherbabies could be considered service animals. Thank you for what you do to help these vets.

    Rose July 27, 2016 8:26 pm Reply
  • I treat medical problems in parrots, not behavioral and environmental issues. What I have to offer you is what you have just read – nothing more. Sometimes there is more than one road to a desired destination. I can only tell you about the things I have done. So do try some of the techniques, like clickers, etc. that you read about online. I would much prefer those things than having your bird drugged, collared or sent away.

    Denny Habib August 24, 2016 1:56 am Reply

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