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Rocker Rick Allen Talks PTSD with Wounded Veterans

Rocker Rick Allen Talks PTSD with Wounded Veterans

Rocker Rick Allen Shares Story With Wounded Warrior Project Veterans
Def Leppard Drummer Talks About His PTSD

SEATTLE (Aug. 15, 2017) – Rick Allen has traveled the globe sharing rock music with millions of cheering fans. Def Leppard’s smash hits still pack arenas around the world. One of his latest audiences focused not on his drum solos, but instead his message of dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Rick’s PTSD stems from a car crash more than 30 years ago. He was thrown through his vehicle’s sunroof, severing his left arm. He overcame that injury to rejoin his band the following year. But the wreck haunted him.

Rick uses his celebrity to help other survivors of PTSD, to let them know it is OK to live with the symptoms, and it is OK to seek help. Recently, Rick stopped by the Seattle office of Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) with the organization’s national service director, John Roberts. They told WWP staff how music is in harmony with healing.

“We tell them ‘come out to a rock show,’” John said. Rick chimed in, “And then we trick them.”

“We then talk about post-traumatic stress,” John added. “My first experience, I was like ‘this is cool, I get to meet Rick Allen.’ Then I realized he is just like me.”

“It’s not ‘how is your day job,’ it is ‘how do you feel,’” Rick said. “You have your life experiences, how it was before, and how it is now.”

Dominic Napolitan met Rick Allen at a recent WWP gathering at a Def Leppard concert. The Army veteran spent more than two decades in the service. 

“It is a struggle every day to open up and talk,” Dominic said. “Being around fellow warriors gives me that comfort zone and allows me to open up and share and discuss my struggles and pain. Listening to Rick and everyone discuss their struggles and how they overcame them was inspirational for me.”

John and Rick formed a friendship several years ago while John joined other wounded veterans at a concert. John suffered third-degree burns during a helicopter crash 25 years ago. He told the group about connecting with a Marine veteran dealing with PTSD. 

“I asked who he served with; he said Bravo Co. 1/1. I said, so was I; he knew I was in the helicopter crash.”

John’s message resonates with veterans and civilians who cope with PTSD. Traumatic experiences tend to linger in memories. Something someone experienced years, even decades, ago can come rushing back with the simplest of triggers. A door slamming can remind a wounded veteran of an improvised explosion ripping through their armored vehicle and their unit; large crowds can take a warrior back to patrolling a war-torn city, leaving that individual scanning the groups of people, looking for any threat. These reactions are normal but can turn everyday situations into crippling moments.

WWP has many approaches to address the invisible wounds of war. This comprehensive care provides warriors with treatment options that meet them at whatever point they are in their recoveries. 


PTSD presents challenges for warriors. A wounded veteran may not feel comfortable leaving his or her home or interacting with anyone except the closest of family members. To combat that isolation, WWP provides engaging options to get veterans out of the house and connected with other service members. These might be service projects with WWP partners like The Mission Continues or Team Rubicon. They might be physical fitness outings like a ruck march with Team RWB, stand-up paddleboarding, a group bicycle ride, or even training sessions. They might be as simple as a dinner bringing veterans together to bond while breaking bread. 

Some warriors are not ready to connect with other veterans. They may be early enough in their recovery that they are in distress. WWP is ready to intervene if needed. In severe cases, when symptoms get so bad that a veteran threatens to injure themselves, WWP can get a warrior into clinical treatment. These inpatient programs stabilize veterans and provide needed therapy. These instances are rare. In most cases, a warrior in need of therapy can engage with other resources offered by WWP.


Warrior Care Network® is an innovative partnership between WWP, four top academic medical centers, and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Home Base, a Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital program; Emory Healthcare’s Veterans Program; Road Home at Rush University Medical Center; and UCLA Health Operation Mend provide intensive outpatient programs to address PTSD and traumatic brain injury (TBI). 

Warrior Care Network provides more than 70 hours of therapy through intensive outpatient programs. To put that in perspective, that is as much therapy as a patient would normally receive in more than a year of outpatient therapy, and it is completed within three weeks. These sessions include cognitive processing, prolonged exposure, one-on-one, and group sessions to determine the root of the post-traumatic stress. The goal is to lessen symptoms of PTSD while increasing psychological well-being. Clinical measurements show marked improvement in Warrior Care Network patients. 

Another option for wounded veterans is telephonic therapy. Trained WWP staff members call a veteran or family member every week, just to talk. They do this on the same day and time to create a routine. This nonclinical therapy is not invasive and allows warriors a chance to talk to someone about any topic they want from the comfort of home. 

For warriors who want to address challenges more directly, WWP provides outdoor rehabilitative mental health workshops. These gatherings insert warriors into challenging scenarios designed to help them work through personal struggles. In this setting, a warrior, who is further along in his or her recovery, relies on WWP, certified clinicians, and other veterans to overcome symptoms of PTSD. These workshops also help warriors create new support structures with the veterans that go through the activities with them. Some of these workshops also help couples manage challenges at home.


A powerful tool in the recovery process is the reduction of isolation through connecting with peers. Veterans can see they are not alone; other people deal with similar struggles. WWP makes these connections through several programs, with focuses on career searches; physical activities; or peer support, where warriors lead other warriors through group activities. There are nearly 1 million of today’s generation of veterans who have applied for assistance through VA; none of them should ever feel alone. 

Rick Allen may have felt alone while managing his PTSD, even while on stage in front of tens of thousands of fans. He has bested challenges before just to get back on that stage. While he admits to dealing with the symptoms the wrong way for many years, Rick has found a group that understands what he is going through. And he is giving back. Rick established the Raven Drum Foundation with his wife in 2001. Rick takes his message on the road to warriors, whether it is Texas, Colorado, or Tennessee. Rick also recently recorded a public service announcement for WWP to address post-traumatic stress.

Before that Seattle show, Rick and John met with nearly two dozen wounded veterans. They sat in a circle and talked candidly about how each of them lives with PTSD: Rick, with the crash that nearly took his life and the career he loves; and the warriors, with the trauma of war that altered their career paths; and John, who found new meaning in a career of service after a helicopter crash separated him from military service. Two warriors of life, giving back, one show at a time. 

Contact: Rob Louis – Public Relations 
Phone: 904.627.0432

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