Using Metal Detecting to Fight PTSD

As of September 2014, there are about 2.7 million American veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and according to the RAND Corporation and at least 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have PTSD and/or Depression. This statistic does not take into account service personnel of the pre-9/11 era, transitioning service members or other law enforcement and other first responders. We use scuba diving to help better the lives of those who have served. We know therapeutic scuba diving helps wounded veterans improve muscle strength, mobility, confidence, and psychological well-being. This summer through a great relationship with Garrett Metal Detectors we’ve decided to take it to the next level to promote wellness.

Neptune Warrior works with veterans and local law enforcement and first responders through scuba diving. Unlike many other veteran organizations that use funding to go to exotic locations such as Hawaii, Cancun, Cozumel, or Belize, we instead use funding to stay local and impact more lives in conditions that are more accessible on a regular basis.

Our primary purpose is to provide disabled veterans an opportunity to:

•Relieve pressures veterans experience during transition or post deployment

•Instill or regain self-confidence by learning and advancing skill set (SCUBA diving)

•Build community with other veteran divers

•Begin a lifelong activity that can be done with other vets or as a connection point with family and friends.

•Assist with coping mechanisms for anxiety and stress

While the heavy work is done in a controlled environment such as a swimming pool many of our veterans go on to become certified in scuba diving. This actually presents a problem: the veteran finds an activity that provides confidence, reduces stress, promotes good psychological health, but then is stuck in Idaho for diving.

To overcome this, we have had to create a reason to go diving in our cold and murky waters, provide opportunities for comradery, give a sense of mission or adventure, and keep our divers diving.

Underwater metal detecting provides all of this and more. Dopamine, the feel good drug is released not when an addict uses a mind altering drug, but rather when it is found or purchased. The brain is actually rewired to enjoy this feeling. In our diving program, when we use metal detecting we mimic that response and help the veteran enjoy the “found it!” reaction when they pull a target from the sand.

Intense focus on a task when submerged has also shown to block chemicals in the brain that produce stress. In our pool environments we use various games and activities for this. In the lake environment where visibility is often 5 feet or less, we don’t have pretty fish to focus on, instead metal detecting provides that focus. In addition, the sense of “mission” comes into play, filling a void for many former service members.

Metal detecting also helps our vets who have suffered brain injuries, concussions, mTBI, physical wounds and injuries, etc. because it promotes motor skill movement. Waving the detector works large muscles, and retrieving small objects, adjusting and tuning knobs, and working underwater scoops and tools all improves and promotes muscle growth and coordination.

We created our own Advanced specialty though NAUI for Underwater Metal Detecting and Prospecting. To get to the level of this certification. To be eligible the diver must have completed a minimum 20 dives including certifications or log book entries in Limited Visibility, Cold Water, Search and Light Salvage, and Night Diving. This means more diving experiences, a goal to work towards, and the esteem and recognition of a certification. Once certified, they are able to attend dive events to look for items in the local ponds and lakes, eventually purchasing their own gear. We are also partnering with a local GPAA chapter to get vets out prospecting as the next level of involvement.

One of our goals is to not only create a community of veterans who dive on a regular basis, but a tribe who searches out underwater targets as a weekly or biweekly event. Right now we are the only known organization in Treasure Valley that pursues this, and all listed metal detecting clubs on the websites are defunct or have not posted in years. We want to fill that void.

We currently have three detectors and six students working towards a certification, with eight- twelve in the pipeline that have not met the minimum requirements but have expressed an interest. We have divers in the water several times a week which is creating a buzz in the local community.

This has been a great addition to our work with our vets and looking to really grow this program. Will post up other videos- but this is one you can watch now.


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