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This story is about suicide. If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please contact Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
This Veterans Day focuses on mental health. Unfortunately, many military personnel and women return to the United States due to a lack of emotional and psychosocial support after their tours of duty. However, one simple activity can help improve the minds and psyches of ex-soldiers, while training their bodies: physical fitness.
According to the most recent statistics, in 2020 a total of 6,146 veterans committed suicide – nearly 17 per day, and the 20th consecutive year with at least 6,000 veteran suicides. Veterans face a suicide rate more than 50% higher than those who have not served in the military, a mental burden that our country’s bravest men and women should not have to bear alone. .
The reasons for the epidemic of veteran suicides vary and explain the larger issues affecting the mental health of many veterans. For example, in some industries, up to 31% of military personnel report post-combat post-traumatic stress symptoms, and with most companies not offering veteran-specific recruiting pathways or transition support , some former soldiers struggle to find a job to pay for their living. bills, and adjusting to life in general, when returning to the private sector.
VETERANS ARE ON THE FRONT LINE OF AN OPIOID CRISIS IN THE UNITED STATES THAT CONTINUES TO WORSEN
Addressing veterans’ mental health issues will require tackling these myriad and disparate causes. However, one simple measure can help all Veterans, regardless of their specific mental health needs: a physical fitness program.
Numerous journal articles and medical publications have documented the clear link between exercise and reduced anxiety and depression. The Mayo Clinic notes that exercise releases feel-good endorphins that improve well-being, while providing a positive outlet for individuals to focus on, instead of the worries that fuel mental anxiety.
Equally important: Regular exercise helps improve social interaction, whether it’s on a sports team or just walking around the neighborhood. For returning soldiers, who may suffer from feelings of loneliness and isolation after leaving the military, camaraderie through organized exercises can create critically important psychosocial bonds connecting veterans to other others like them.
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As two people committed to helping military families, we recognize how physical fitness can help transform the lives of veterans. Having watched his best friend lose his son in Afghanistan, Jason cultivated veteran clients for his CrossFit business, knowing the connection between physical fitness and mental well-being. Serving more than 20 years in the special ops community as a SEAL brings myriad stressors, and Eddie says the transition is even more difficult. “The reason I’ve managed to do so well mentally and physically through eight combat deployments and survive the transition is entirely because fitness is a priority in my life.”
Of course, physical fitness alone will not solve all the problems faced by returning soldiers. Better access to mental health therapy, support from military and non-military organizations, and a greater focus on the unique challenges veterans face will help alleviate the underlying causes of veteran anxiety. But fitness comes with many upsides and few downsides, making it an essential tool in the arsenal for improving mental health.
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Two millennia ago, the Roman poet Juvenal coined the phrase A healthy mind in a healthy body – “A healthy mind in a healthy body.” This phrase should guide our energies on this Veterans Day, as we strive to welcome our heroes home and provide them with the support – both mental and physical – they need to succeed in all their endeavours. post-military.
Jason Welch is a fitness trainer and owner of Crossfit Cadre in Hudson, Ohio.
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