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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Fighting Beneath the Surface: Exploring How Community-Based Marine Debris Cleanups Can Be Therapeutic Recreation for Active Duty Service Members and Veterans

  • Author(s): Liebengood, Fawn
  • et al.

There is a substantial amount of plastic polluting our oceans. Increasing numbers of our military suffer from mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury, and depression. Wouldn’t it be great if we could use the marine debris problem to help alleviate mental health issues among military service members and veterans? We can - through Blue Ocean Warriors (BOW), which will be the first military-centered environmental nonprofit organization.

BOW’s mission is to enrich our military’s lives through community-based marine debris cleanups while empowering them in the fight to eradicate marine plastic pollution. BOW envisions a world where our military is not impaired by mental health concerns. A world without plastic-filled oceans, lakes, rivers, and beaches. A world where local communities embrace and support their military community members and where the military treats local communities with respect. BOW envisions a circular economy society where everyone reuses resources and does not waste them. BOW will be led by a marine debris expert passionate about helping our military with a unique psychology, nonprofit business, entrepreneurship, and science background. BOW’s goal is to transform our service members and veterans into ocean advocates by spreading the environmental knowledge and love for the ocean they gain from marine debris cleanups to their peers, while supporting others to make positive environmental changes in their own lives. Marine debris is polluting our oceans and mental health concerns among our military are worsening, leading to increased suicide and destructive behaviors, but through the concept of “Blue Mind” both problems can be alleviated. Therefore, we need Blue Ocean Warriors to not only improve the health of the ocean, but to improve mental health issues among military service members and veterans.

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