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Therapeutic Diving Helping Veterans and First Responders Cope With Stress

Military service members and first responders have experienced some of the most stressful environments of all time, and that’s often true regardless of whether or not they suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The average civilian can’t even begin to fathom the intensities and carnage that many of these men and women have witnessed over the years. Because of how physically and mentally taxing these careers can be, many new forms of therapy have emerged in recent years to help veterans cope with stress, anxiety, and PTSD. That includes equestrian therapy, art therapy, and even some controversial treatments such as medical marijuana.

Now, according to KIVI, a unique new program in the Treasure Valley is helping first responders and veterans deal with their physical and mental stress through diving therapy.

The Neptune Warrior Project involves therapeutic scuba diving to assist wounded veterans and first responders with muscle strengthening, mobility, confidence, and psychological well-being.

“[It’s] a cool feeling to take that first under water breath,” said Ben Winkler, a U.S. Forest Service Wildland Firefighter who has been involved with the Neptune Warrior project for approximately one year. “It helps with motor skills, getting that calm that the water provides.”

For veterans and first responders (both on duty and retired), post traumatic stress disorder, brain injuries, chronic pain, and severe anxieties can be common. Neptune Warrior hopes to assist these first responders and veterans by providing them with a therapeutic experience underwater.

“I know what diving did for me in my own struggles and battles with PTSD and the calm that it brought and then also working with other veterans who had received traumatic brain injuries or had combat wounds,” said Rob Anderson, a veteran who came up with the Neptune Warrior concept during a dive in Hawaii in 2016.

According to the Professional Association of Scuba Divers, recreational divers shouldn’t go below 130 feet, while skilled free divers can dive between 120 and 200 feet below the surface.

The Neptune Warrior Project provides training classes for novice divers who still need to master basic scuba and diving skills. In addition to Basic Scuba Certification classes, the group also offers Rescue courses.

“It helps to block the stressor drugs that cause PTSD,” Anderson added.

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