According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 11-20% of veterans are diagnosed with symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in a given year. More and more veterans seek treatment for PTSD in order to learn how to address their symptoms, improve positive thinking, learn ways to cope when symptoms arise and treat problems related to trauma such as depression and anxiety or misuse of alcohol or drugs.
We are fortunate to be living in a time when America "supports the troops" and encourages the identification and treatment of invisible wounds. In addition to increased efforts by the Department of Veterans Affairs to treat PTSD, there are many veteran non-profit organizations who step in to help.
The treatments and opportunities are far-reaching and varied, including offering psychotherapy or meditation classes.
And then there are non-profit organizations that have learned that a little adrenaline can go a long way. Here are six of them:
1. Motorcycle Relief Project
Based in Colorado, Motorcycle Relief Project invites veterans on guided motorcycle adventure trips to decompress and learn some tools for managing stress. The organization creates a positive environment for veterans to connect with each other find some relief from everyday stresses by touring "some of the most scenic paved roads in the country as well as some amazing jeep trails and forest rides."
These five-day trips are structured and led by professional staff and other veterans in order to allow participants to begin to re-frame their trauma with new narrative recovery through serving others:
"We know that you might not always be able to accept it when someone thanks you for your service, or that you don't always feel worthy of someone's gratitude or admiration just because you wore the uniform. We get that. But we also recognize that serving in the military or as a first responder is hard work. In difficult circumstances. With high demands and intense pressure. And for many of you, serving came at a great personal cost. So no matter how you may feel about your motives for serving or what you did or didn't do while you were over there, the fact remains that you served. And that alone is enough for us to want to serve you back."
Go to the Motorcycle Relief Project website to check out their program and apply.
2. Force Blue
Force Blue unites the community of Special Operations veterans with the world of marine conservation for the betterment of both. By providing "mission therapy" for former combat divers, Force Blue retrains and retools veterans before "deploying" them on missions of conservation and restoration.
In the keenly unique organization founded by Marine Recon vet Rudy Reyes, Force Blue teams work alongside marine scientists to complete tasks such as surveying the health and disease of sea turtles and plant 100 yards of coral to help restore Florida's Coral Reef.
To be considered for Force Blue, or to help sponsor a veteran, check out their website.
3. Operation Jump 22
Operation Jump 22 was founded in 2017 by a team of Marines and a licensed skydiver to create an exciting event for veterans and help combat veteran suicide. Operation Jump 22 helped raise funds for Merging Vets and Players, an organization that matches up combat veterans and former professional athletes to help both transition to civilian life by connecting with their community.
On Nov. 2, 2019, Operation Jump 22 invited participants to help raise funds and then jump 13,000 feet out of an airplane. The event Go Jump Oceanside brought together veterans, first responders and the community to bring awareness to the alarming veteran suicide rates — and get a massive burst of adrenaline.
That positive surge of adrenaline, mixed with community support, can help reprogram the fight-or-flight response centers in the brain that are activated and imprinted during stressful situations like combat or sexual assault.The next jump is on Nov. 7, 2020 if you're looking for a little adrenaline of your own.
4. War Horses for Veterans
A recent study found that PTSD scores dropped 87 percent after just six weeks of therapeutic horsemanship sessions. Conducted by Rebecca Johnson, a professor in the University Of Missouri-Columbia College of Veterinary Medicine and the Millsap Professor of Gerontological Nursing in the Sinclair School of Nursing, the study introduced veterans suffering from PTSD to basic horsemanship skills.
The veterans, working under strict ethical guidelines for the welfare of the horses, learned to groom and interact with horses before riding and caring for them.
War Horses for Veterans brings combat veterans together for multi-day all-expenses-paid programs that introduce the basics of horsemanship, including grooming and riding. Veterans can return as often as they want — as long as they bring another veteran with them.
5. Diavolo - Architecture in Motion
You may recognize the name from America's Got Talent, where the contemporary movement company combined physics-defying acrobatics with mind-blowing sets, much like cirque-du-soleil.
In 2016, the company created The Veterans Project to give vets the Diavolo experience, from choreography to training to performing. The mission of The Veterans Project is to utilize Diavolo's unique style of movement as a tool to help restore veterans' physical and mental strengths through workshops and public performances all around the country.
From Los Angeles to Florida to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Diavolo offers its experience free of charge to veterans, helping them challenge their boundaries and tap into their own creative healing.
"I was diagnosed with PTSD when I returned from Iraq, and there was a moment early on in rehearsal with DIAVOLO when I realized it was the first time I have truly felt at peace since returning from war, and I've been back a decade." — Chris Loverro, United States Army
6. Warrior Surf Foundation
Warrior Surf enhances the physical and mental well-being of veterans and their families through surf therapy. By combining surfing and yoga with wellness and community, Warrior Surf channels the healing energy of the ocean to help break the cycle of trauma and help the body work through residual feelings of comfort and distress.
Surf therapy helps improve emotional regulation and frustration management while creating non-battlefield bonds and community connection. They hold several 12-week programs and 5-day travel camps throughout the year. In addition to surfing, vets who participate in the program work on wellness with individual coaching sessions as well as yoga to increase mobility and improve mindfulness.
Veterans interested in participating can register on the Warrior Surf Foundation website.
7. Outward Bound for Veterans
Outward Bound for Veterans offers wilderness expeditions that purposefully scaffold wartime experiences (carrying heavy packs, sore shoulders, rubbery legs, sleeping out, strange noises, sweat, dirt, frustration and anger) in order to help veterans return home after wartime service.
By offering challenges that are physically and emotionally demanding — without the life-threatening experience of combat — Outward Bound gives veterans the opportunity to re-experience those conditions in a different context, which helps them transition back to civilian life. As a result, veterans successfully draw on the benefit of connecting with each other within the healing environment of nature.
Interested veterans can search for expeditions, which include everything from backpacking to whitewater rafting to rock climbing right here.
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