Summit for Soldiers using adventure to confront PTSD (Audio & video included)
3/20/2017 1:25:44 PM
By Mike Vetorino
Listening to military veteran Michael Fairman describe his adventure climbing Mount Everest by itself would be an interesting way to spend an hour on a Saturday morning. Columbus resident Fairman's reason for being at the Ohio Hi-Point Career Center brings the story a double edge of triumph.
Fairman founded Summit for Soldiers, a group that reaches out to military veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). One alarming statistic speaks to the seriousness of the problem. Nearly 8000 military veterans die each year from PTSD.
Fairman, a victim of the disorder, tried to take his own life. After an awful military experience in Afghanistan involving children, he attempted to forget the experience with excessive alcohol use. After failing twice in his suicide attempts, he realized that he was happiest when he was outside, seeking adventure. He learned to focus on the present, take things a day at a time, and enjoy the moment.
Fairman discusses Summitt for Soldiers and Mount Everest.
Fairman's decision to climb Mount Everest was the ultimate challenge. The preparation, cost, mental toughness, and dependence of others are way above anything he ever attempted before. He succeeded in reaching the top despite several near-death experiences.
He realized through fundraising attempts to make the excursion, that many were not only supportive of his adventure but also interested in his story. Summit for Soldiers evolved from his interactions with Everest supporters.
Summit for Soldiers reaches out to those suffering from PTSD. The group provides camaraderie for those in isolation. The group feels activities like mountain climbing, hiking, biking, camping, or kayaking provide a distraction from the problems of everyday life.
In the past three months, a new segment of the group, Base Camp has been formed. These volunteers provide support for the families and friends of the veterans inflicted with the disease. Fairman indicated he found that many wanted to help but were not interested in the physical activity. The name, Fairman said, comes from his Everest excursions. Base camps were essential for survival when climbing the mountain.
Fairman's Everest presentation lasted about 45 minutes. At the conclusion, he had a list of names on the screen that had committed suicide because of PTSD. Fairman referred to them as the “Silently Fallen.” A white rose for each fallen soldier was placed on a table in recognition of their passing. Many family members of the fallen were present.
After the Silently Fallen ceremony, the group shifted to Campbell Hill, the highest point in Ohio. Saturday was the kickoff to the groups' international tour in which they hope to gather 8000 signatures showing support for the group's initiative.
Fairman shared that the military does not effectively decompress soldiers after combat. The soldiers are well equipped to handle the battle but are mot prepared to cope with the events they witnessed once discharged. He is hoping that his group can help change how soldiers are discharged.