Implementing Health and Wellness to combat the ongoing battles in mental health for our troops

At Augusta Warrior Project, we pride ourselves in our abilities to connect local veterans with the services needed. This includes VA benefits, education, employment and housing assistance, and using our networks to remain dynamic for any needed assistance for those veterans right here in our community. One area we would like to expand is a health and wellness program that will facilitate positive lifestyles veterans can use to enrich their daily lives and hopefully prove to be a solution to the ever-growing depression and suicide rates within the veteran community.

Everyone should be made aware of the mental health needs of the veteran population. Being in the military comes with great pride, it takes someone out of what may be perceived as an insignificant existence and plunges them into a world filled with purpose and participation in something larger than themselves. Once out of the military all veterans must face a transition, that would be more accurately described as a vacuum. This vacuum often weighs heavily on the minds of many veterans. This can be exacerbated by combat deployments, multiple relocations, service connected disabilities, and many other situations specific to the veteran community. One way to help our veterans with mental health success is through education about positive choices in their daily lives. We look forward to offering our local veterans resources and facilitate a place where they can seek help regarding their own mental well-being.

Most know the benefits from establishing a healthy diet and regular exercise, which will be two pillars of this wellness program, but there are many other facets of healthy living. Other goals of this program that will contribute to a healthy lifestyle, will be offering veterans a form of comradery and motivation to get reestablished in their community through organized activities centered in exercise. The two big factors in depression and suicide that we would like to help solve is social interaction and purpose desired by so many of our veterans. One such way to do this is through adaptive sports. Adaptive sports give those with certain physical limitations and provide a way for them to become limitless in sport. Adaptive sports include golf, swimming, cycling, sled hockey, and many more. One local veteran has found his purpose in adaptive cycling. A retired Army Major, Pete Way, who is a local to our area found himself searching for an opportunity to regain an active lifestyle after a lower-limb amputation resulting from injuries sustained during combat in Afghanistan. Way found adaptive cycling as his calling and now uses this to reach out to other veterans searching for life after debilitating injuries. Rehabilitation does not end with physical or occupational therapy, but it’s a path that must consider inclusion and mental side of having the feeling of belonging to something larger than oneself again.

With the mission of improving the lives of our veterans, the answer or solutions can be complicated. It will always be our goal to set veterans on a path to be highly successful at their next station in life. This allows for improvements in not only their daily life, but also helps solidify their future. Offering a health and wellness package to our local veterans in another way we can accomplish our mission.

Written by Mike Pinaula

Veteran Army Medic and AWP team member