As a disabled veteran, returning to civilian life after serving in the military can be a difficult transition. Many veterans, including myself, struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and other injuries picked up along the way which can make it challenging to adjust to life outside of the military. However, I have found that outdoor therapy like hiking and mountain biking, has been a powerful tool for managing these mental health issues.
Being outdoors has shown to have numerous physical and mental health benefits, including reducing stress, improving mood, and increasing overall well-being. For disabled veterans, doing hard things like hiking, mountain biking, surfing, or backpacking (plus many more activities) can be especially beneficial, as they provide an opportunity to challenge oneself physically and mentally.
Something I have learned is that one of the main challenges for veterans is the fear of getting outdoors and allowing yourself to be vulnerable around other veterans. Anxiety can make it difficult to leave the house, let alone venture into the wilderness with a group of people you don’t know… YET. Trust me when I say being outdoors with a group of other veterans is so beneficial!
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, it is estimated that around 11-20% of veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have PTSD in a given year. Additionally, it is estimated that around 12% of Gulf War veterans and 15% of Vietnam veterans have PTSD in a given year.
I fall into those statistics from the VA and so do a lot of veterans I served with and have gotten to know in my community. Outdoor therapy has been shown to have a calming effect on the mind and body, which can help reduce symptoms of these mental health issues, I really believe that. Just in the short time Disconnect to Reconnect has been around, I have seen how it can help local veterans in my community and I hope we can grow to support those veterans more and more.