Tennessee Valley Healthcare System

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Middle Tennessee Veterans "Teeing it Up"

Middle Tennessee Veterans are "teeing it up" at local golf courses as part of a therapeutic golf program that promotes social interaction and helps reduce depression. The program is a partnership between VA TVHS and First Tee of Nashville, A non-profit agency to give people an opportunity to develop through golf.

The program is another example of VA TVHS's emphasis on mental health recovery for Veterans at the psychosocial rehabilitation and recovery center (PRRC). The PRRC is placing focus on assisting veterans recovering from mental illness become engaged in activities. The Veterans Recovery Center (VRC), in Murfreesboro is a PRRC and has stressed partnering with community agencies in Middle Tennessee such as First Tee of Nashville, according to Scott Hardie, Interim Coordinator of VA TVHS's Veteran Recovery Center.

"Often, veterans with mental health disorders have significant difficulty with social interaction which may contribute to isolation, depression, substance abuse, recurring hospitalization, suicide ideation and suicide attempts." said Hardie. "So, Programs like this are valuable to helping Veterans stay engaged with activities," he said.

According to Hardie, First Tee was eager for the opportunity to work with local Veterans. Soon after the initial contact, First-Tee began offering nine-week instructional courses on golf to Veterans at no charge. "First Tee teaches respect, courtesy, perseverance and confidence," said Hardie. "These skills are critical to achieving success in all social situations including social interaction within the larger community," he said. Hardie also said Veterans also get an excellent basic primer on how to play golf, and he hopes some will continue to do so in the community when the classes are over.

The First Tee Instructor, Thelma Ewell believes this program is benefiting veterans.

"Veterans have been telling us how they are using the skills we teach, such as respect and courtesy, in their homes. It is very exciting for us to see how quickly they have learned and are applying what we are teaching," said Ewell. "The improvement in their golf skills is pretty phenomenal," said Ewell.