JEFFERSONTOWN, KY (WAVE) – Every day an average of 22 veterans take their own lives. While there may be many factors that lead to that decision, PTSD is one of the biggest reasons.
However, staying active may be a life-saving remedy for many veterans.
Equipped with a FitBit and an Army tank top, Seth Higginbotham gets into his daily grind at the Louisville Athletic Club.
"If I'm having a bad day or if I get aggravated about something, I can come to the gym, decompress and destress," Higginbotham said.
Higginbotham gave his all during his five years of service in the army. On his return from Iraq, he brought along post-traumatic stress disorder and more.
"Deep survivor's guilt," Higginbotham said. "Being over there, seeing guys not come home but come home in boxes. I had deep survivor's guilt so I was really depressed."
It took him three months in bed to realize that working out was what he was missing.
"I got back to my fitness, where I was and how I used to be. I'm still not a hundred percent better. PTSD is not something that goes away overnight. It's something that's with you forever," Higginbotham explained. "You just have to find channels and places you can go to cope and manage."
Higginbotham's story is a success story. Active Heroes is looking to create more of those with their Pound Challenge.
"We say that activities like hiking and working out really get veterans out of the house and do help people get active and help people alleviate the stresses of every day life," Jeremy Sneed said. He is the event manager for the Pound Challenge. "It relieves the symptoms of PTSD and depression and things that lead to suicide."
Through a partnership with hundreds of gyms around the nation, Active Heroes is raising awareness of both veteran suicides and the importance of staying active for veterans.
"The effects of PTSD is that it really destroys people's mental health and physical health as well. So by helping to combat that, we're just furthering our mission in what we do in the community," said Stephanie Vontrapp, the general manager of Louisville Athletic Club.
For veterans who haven't made the first step towards starting back again at the gym, two other veterans who are regulars at LAC have some good advice.
"Start small and when you find that confidence, find your battle buddy and come to the gym," James Bush Jr. said.
"Stay active and try to live a pretty decent, clean lifestyle," James Sims suggested.
Active Heroes says one veteran suicide is one too many.