How Alternative Programs Are Helping Veterans
Transitioning back to civilian life is more than just a job change for veterans. It can pose many challenges for veterans as well as their families, and for those suffering from depression or PTSD, the process can be much more difficult.
The Veterans Crisis Line is a valuable resource that connects veterans in crisis and their families with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Support for deaf and hard of hearing individuals is available.
For veterans who are not in crisis but are looking for ways to help boost well-being, there are alternative programs that have proven very successful in helping veterans establish a new outlook on life. One example is the Organic Therapy Program (OTP), a veterans’ recovery project that promotes healing through organic gardening. Howard Hinterthuer, a peer-to-peer mentor for this program was a medic in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970, and found solace in establishing several gardens in Virginia when he returned. He brings his experiences with gardening to other veterans in his mentor role, and has found it has helped to lift them out of depression, increase their self-esteem and has even encouraged them to eat healthier. Gardening provides an experience where they are creating something positive, and the act is almost meditative in and of itself.
For others, yoga might be a more tangible option. Although on first thought it might seem like a strange solution to ease symptoms of PTSD, programs like those at Veterans Yoga Project are targeted specifically toward veterans and help promote resilience, mindfulness, and gratitude. Yoga can help veterans prioritize focusing their own attention inward, on developing strength, stability, and flexibility in their mind, body, and spirit.
If yoga isn’t for you, how about fishing? A 2009 study done by researchers at the University of Southern Maine, the University of Utah, and the Salt Lake City VA saw a significant improvement in the symptoms of veterans with PTSD after they took part in a two-day, three-night residential fly fishing retreat.
For those struggling to fully transition home, alternative programs can help get you get connected with others who share your own experiences, encourage you to take time to focus on yourself and your own needs, and can help start the healing process.
Redfield, M. (2012, October 11). Gardening projects change lives of troubled veterans. Retrieved June 29, 2015, from http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Making-a-difference/Change-Agent/2012/1011/Gardening-projects-change-lives-of-troubled-veterans
Yoga Now Standard Treatment for Vets with PTSD. (2013, March 21). Retrieved June 29, 2015, from http://www.pri.org/stories/2013-03-21/yoga-now-standard-treatment-vets-ptsd