In the journey to combat post-traumatic stress and depression among our country’s veterans, Healing Strides of Virginia has forged a meaningful partnership. This collaboration aims to provide crucial mental health support through an equine-assisted learning program, addressing the challenges faced by those who have served our nation.
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How Does Equine-Assisted Learning Promote Mental Well-being?
The Department of Veterans Affairs’ 2022 report revealed a staggering average of 16.8 veteran suicides each day in 2020. In response to this pressing issue, Healing Strides, in partnership with Horses for Mental Health, has initiated well-being services for veterans and Armed Forces members. This program, funded by the VA Adaptive Sports Grant, employs equine-assisted learning to offer mental health assistance.
A Therapeutic Approach: Equine-Assisted Learning Curriculum
The equine-assisted learning curriculum is designed to address various mental health aspects. Recreational Therapist and Equine Specialist, Kassidy Earhart, emphasizes the program’s focus on building resilience and trust, both within oneself and with others. The unique connection with horses plays a pivotal role in allowing participants to introspect and express their true emotions, often concealed or misunderstood.
How Do Horses Facilitate Emotional Healing for Veterans?
Horses, known for their intuitive nature, provide a non-traditional yet powerful approach to mental health therapy. Engaging with these majestic animals creates emotional safe spaces, breaking down barriers that hinder traditional forms of communication. Veterans find solace in sharing their stories, contributing to their healing journey.
Personal Narratives: Veterans Find Solace and Community
Navy veteran John Igoe, reflecting on his challenging military experience, acknowledges the difficulty of burying comrades and the emotional toll it takes. He sees Healing Strides as an opportunity to confront and work through these profound life experiences. Community Outreach Coordinator Deck Hardee highlights the transformative power of engaging with horses. The process, from brushing the horse to sharing untold stories, creates a supportive environment for veterans.
How Has Equine-Assisted Learning Helped Veterans in Healing and Community Building?
Equine-assisted learning provides veterans with a unique opportunity to share and process their experiences, fostering a sense of community and support.
Military Family Advocacy: The Kellys’ Journey to Healing
Stephen and Kasey Kelly, a military family, understand the challenges of transitioning back to civilian life. Stephen, medically retired after 11 years in the Army, found solace and community through Healing Strides. The couple emphasizes the importance of having a safe space for veterans and praises the program’s role in building a supportive community.
Why is Having a Safe Space for Veterans Important, and How Does Healing Strides Contribute to Building Communities?
A safe space is crucial for veterans’ well-being, allowing them to share and heal collectively. Healing Strides’ role in creating such environments contributes to building supportive communities.
Expanding Impact: The Goal Beyond the Grant
While the current grant supports 18 veterans in a 2-hour-a-week, 8-week course, Healing Strides envisions expanding its program. The goal is to reach more veterans, providing them with the therapeutic benefits of equine-assisted learning.
Healing Strides aims to expand its program to reach more veterans. Interested individuals can visit healingstridesofva.org for more information on participating in this impactful mental health initiative.