Hiking and PTSD

What can hiking do for PTSD and why does it matter? Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an illness that affects approximately 3.5% of adults in the U.S. every year and one in eleven adults will suffer from PTSD in their lifetime. Billions of dollars is spent every year on treatment of PTSD, while some treatments including medication and talk therapy are necessary what else will help? Hiking and being in nature can help; all the way back to Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson there has been knowledge of the need for nature in our lives.

Combat veterans are who most of us think of when we think of PTSD survivors and for good reason they experience horrible things and we hear about many of those experiences in the media. In reality, they are only a portion of those that suffer from PTSD. Unfortunately the largest amount of sufferers are from domestic issues such as physical and psychological abuse in the family sadly with many being children. Many other events could cause PTSD including a car accident, witnessing a violent crime or watching a loved one die. We all have the potential to be exposed to events that could lead to PTSD. Researchers and groups are starting to study and provide hiking as a treatment to combat this illness.

REI pledged $1 million to research at the University of Washington with veterans to determine the connection to nature and rehabilitation. Why would a company like REI do this? A few come to mind like equipment sales, philanthropy, community involvement and promotion of the outdoors. The important concept I see in this contribution is their love for nature and wanting to study the impacts of helping those suffering from PTSD.

There are many groups and programs helping veterans get better through hiking. Just like there are many other people impacted by this illness, there will be ever-increasing programs to help combat the effects of PTSD of all people. There are already programs developing for adolescents and young adults because of the success of the programs for veterans. Hiking will continue to grow as a treatment for PTSD. Why? Because it matters.

Please take care of yourself and those around you. If hiking helps you like it helps me and many others get out and experience the benefits of nature.

photo taken by Shaun Cruze on a hike near Phoenix AZ

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