I found this story in a history of Outward Bound.
During World War II, a merchant ship was torpedoed and sunk in the North Atlantic. The older captain and his young crew took to their lifeboat, awaiting rescue. The crew grew quiet in time, drifted off into their own thoughts and quietly perished one by one. The captain was the only survivor.
As bad luck would have it, the same captain gets torpedoed again. With his crew growing quiet in the lifeboat again, as they were all settling in for a long, cold wait for rescue, the situation appeared to be repeating itself. This time, however, the captain wasn’t going to sit quietly.
He pulled the drain plug and tossed it overboard.
The boat would sink in a few short minutes. Bailing furiously and developing a system to solve this problem, everyone survived.
We are unlikely to see a different result, through the same actions.
The PTSD issues returning combat vets are facing needs action. Pieces of it are: activity, a sense of hope and belonging to a community. Because of privacy requirements, names and contact information cannot be released . In general, this is good. At times, though, it hinders patient care.
I envision using the web-based dating program model for making connections between vets and community members.
From more than 30 years of facilitating outdoor adventures with a high school, 6-month climbing programs and mountain guiding, I have seen how powerful a beloved activity can be to mental health, social ties and the restorative effects of beauty. Everyone will have a different passion, dream and possess a widely varying sense of adventure.
I am convinced that for every passion, dream, or adventure, there are competent folks out there in the community who can meet the needs of those looking for an adventure. If the vet (with a passion) gets on a site, enters information into the database like: location, an interest, level of experience, challenges to participation (if any), etc; community members competent in the activity can be linked up with them.
Now, the most cursory sweep through of this concept sees plenty of holes in this bailing bucket: define competent, I may be a climber but I’m not likely to be a therapist, differing levels of risk aversion, willingness to assume hardships, background check, and so on.
Just as there are Emergency Medical Technicians, First Responders and First Aid cards to extend the reach of the medical community; there is Psychological First Aid (online) and Clinical First Responder to broaden the reach of therapy. Ideally, someone taking this seriously would have both the medical and clinical courses. I would think a program could operate under the oversight of a therapist or the VA itself.
Then there are core competencies within the activity. Maybe we don’t have to delve too deeply if the activity is quilting. More so, however, with ocean sailing, mountaineering and whitewater paddling. Level of competency can be established. Participants may need to be tested.
It doesn’t take much to realize that climbing with peers is a world of difference from when you are responsible for others. Even more so managing some type of disability in a wilderness setting.
Remember though, a quick response is needed here. I’ve heard there have been more suicides than there have been vets killed in action. Add to that battlefield injuries. Then delayed PTSD symptoms. Then those who don’t want to seek treatment for a variety of reasons.
We have a lot of valuable folks here needing some assistance. Some may need retraining and a job, some community involvement, some light therapy and some more profound effort. We can’t let them drift off. They have too much to contribute, are too willing to be active members of the community and bring a great depth of wisdom to the table.
Is there enough VA and government assistance to go around?
Or should we get creative?