Doubrava completes arduous month-long effort for Stop Soldier Suicide
When Justin Doubrava crossed the 100-mile mark on his journey to raise awareness for soldier suicide the moment, he said, was pure joy.
Over the course of this past September, Doubrava pushed his body’s limits in order to raise funds for Stop Soldier Suicide, a nonprofit — founded by three U.S. Army veterans — that aims to raise donations toward mental and behavioral health resources to veterans. According to Stop Soldier Suicide, veterans are at a 50% higher risk of suicide than people who have not served in the armed forces. Since 2001, more than 114,000 veterans have died by suicide.
“(Running 100 miles) was one way for me to give back,” Doubrava said. “I had a lot of family and friends that have served in the military, and I have lost several friends to PTSD and suicide. It was kind of a big personal goal to help others in the community, other than doing work with EMS. If the money that I raised helped just one person, that’s what is important.”
Research from SSS also says that, depending on the branch of the military, up to 31% of service members develop post traumatic stress disorder after returning from combat.
Despite the physical toll, keeping on track toward the final miles was one of the hardest parts of the journey, Doubrava said. On average, runners who take the challenge have to average 3.3 miles per day to finish by the end of the month, so when a day is missed, those miles must be made up on another day to stay on track. Doubrava said weekends were dedicated to longer runs, and, on some of those days, he had to run upwards of 10 miles each day.
With his dog Oakley, Doubrava tackled those make-up hours and squeezed in extra running early in the mornings or on lunch breaks. For a lot of the runs, Doubrava said that he used those times as meditation and as stress relief. However, he said briefly there was a moment where he thought about giving up.
“It was about halfway through September,” Doubrava said. “LIfe was getting busy, and I was only halfway through at day 17 and was already behind a few miles. I logged into the fundraiser and saw people donating and seeing how proud they were, it motivated me.”
Community support is what kept him going, Doubrava said. On social media, he saw posts and pictures of himself running for the project, and he said on several occasions other community members would honk and wave to him while he got a few miles in. The community also pushed Doubrava to raise past his fundraising goal. He set a goal of raising $200, but by the end of the project, he had raised a total of $620.
In addition to raising money, Doubrava said raising awareness for mental health and the stigma around it was just as important. He added that, in order to help save lives, it was crucial that negative stigmas around talking about mental health are eliminated. He said that anyone should be able to feel comfortable expressing to loved ones when they are not OK.
“No matter where you are in life — if you’re struggling financially, emotionally, with friends or family — there’s always someone that cares. They could be a silent supporter. There’s always someone willing to help,” Doubrava said. “Seeing the impact that suicide has brought to families is tremendous. It impacts their coworkers, their friends, hundreds of people. If you can prevent that one thing, it also prevents trauma to family and friends. When people experience this unforeseen event, they always wonder, ‘What if I had reached out?’ Now is the time to reach out. Even if it’s just being an ear to listen.”
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