Despite the sobering statistics around Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and its concerning links to major depression, as well as mainstream medicine’s current gaps in terms of successful intervention, there is an organisation called 65 Degrees North that is achieving hope for veterans who suffer from this debilitating condition.
What is their medication, you might ask.
The answer is thrilling, extreme, challenging, adventure in the apparent, dire absence of other available therapy.
Cohen Veterans Bioscience, a reputable US-based non-profit organisation dedicated to fast-tracking the development of diagnostic tests and personalised solutions for millions of veterans, cites no FDA-approved therapeutic and only selective serotonin uptake inhibitors (anti-depressant) that provide relief for less than a third of participants, and no more relief than a placebo, in complex PTSD cases.
According to Leesa Harrison, Media Officer for registered charity, 65 Degrees an organisation comprising a small team of working professionals who dedicate their time to rehabilitate injured and wounded ex-servicemen and women, the change in mentally disabled veterans after an adventure-event, can be simply mind-blowing.
“Challenging adventure enables participants to prove to themselves that they are capable of overcoming adversity and achieving more than they think possible, despite injury or obstacles. It also gives them something to focus on and the opportunity to be part of a team again. It increases their skill set, self-confidence and allows them to contribute to the success of a project,” says Harrison.
Lessons learned in extreme and challenging environments have a way of becoming tools to overcome day-to-day challenges, says Harrison.
“On an extreme adventure, there are bonds that tie a team together. It’s the team spirit and shared experiences, whether they are good or bad that last a lifetime,” says Harrison.
A Reason to Get Up Every Day
While it seems counter-intuitive to induce extreme adventure anxiety on someone who is already battling PTSD anxiety, having a goal to focus on and something to train for, has a positive effect by providing participants with a reason to get up every day and push through their struggles, says Harrison.
Besides the medical professionals on standby, each participant is given coping strategies and a team that they know they can rely on to pull them through the tough days, and this support, says Harrison, continues long after a project ends as the 65 Degrees North ‘family’ stay in contact.
Only this year, mentally and physically injured, Royal Marine’s veteran, Brendan Davies, successfully summited Mount Everest describing it as his toughest experience ever. He goes on to say that the team camaraderie and mental fortitude required for such a life-changing event, proved to him that anything is possible.
“I have witnessed first-hand how Brendan’s self-belief and confidence have grown throughout his time with 65 Degrees North. I remember the first time he was asked to say a few words to camera and it was heart-wrenching to see him struggle as his anxiety got the better of him and prevented him from speaking.
“But recently I attended an event where Brendan stood up and confidently spoke to a crowd about his experience on Everest. The change in him was simply mind-blowing,” says Harrison.
Almost every extreme experience delivers a good story, something that the organisation has strategically used to aid in the recovery of its participants.
“We actively encourage team members to become ambassadors for the organisation by visiting schools, business and community events to speak about their experiences and achievements. In this way, many have become invaluable mentors to others and supported training programmes and expeditions.
“Being given a platform to speak enables participants to encourage and inspire others to speak up and seek help because the first step of any recovery is recognising there is a problem in the first place,” says Harrison.
Can One Fully Recover from PTSD?
While Harrison does not believe she is qualified to answer this question, she emphasises that every journey is personal and unique.
“Through the extensive collection of feedback and personal statements following projects, we at 65 Degrees North believe that ‘rehabilitation through adventure’ can aid and enhance recovery and has a positive impact on, not only the participants, but their families, friends and the wider community.
Supporters and Sponsors with Vision
“None of it would be possible without the vital grants and funding from our various sponsors and supporters. We cannot thank the Chelsea Group and Enigma Alliance enough for their continued support which enables us to change perceptions and help to change the lives of our wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women for the better,” concluded Harrison.