Alex Seling hikes from coast to coast for veteran suicide awareness

Alex Seling is gearing up to embark on quite the adventure.

The U.S. Army veteran, who served as a combat medic from 2007 to 2010, plans to hike across America to raise awareness about suicide rates and mental health struggles among veterans.

“I want to give people hope that there is another way,” Seling told In The Know. “There’s another way to live your life. There are unorthodox ways that you can heal yourself. And being in nature and going through the many challenges that come with an adventure is an extremely therapeutic way to heal yourself.”

Seling, whose time in the service included a 12-month deployment to Iraq, will begin his journey on Dec. 21 in Delaware, taking the 5,000-mile southern route of the American Discovery Trail all the way to Point Reyes, Calif.

The veteran initially took up hiking as a hobby years ago after he came home from Iraq and found himself struggling to find comfort in the hobbies he used to love.

“I just found that after coming back I wasn’t interested in anything,” Seling shared. “I wasn’t interested in going to movies anymore, and I used to love movies. I’d go every week to see whatever came out. I wasn’t interested in hanging out with friends or going out or anything, like, hardly at all.”

“Eventually, I started dating this girl who got me a little bit into hiking, and I just kind of discovered it was like a whole new world in itself,” he continued. “And I, for whatever reason, found it fascinating and intriguing. And since I had lost interest in nearly everything else, I was really happy to have found hiking.”

‘I don’t want to kill myself’

Seling began contemplating his cross-country journey in 2017, following his first thru-hike on the Pacific Crest Trail.

“When I was finishing up that hike, I remember thinking, like, it sucks that this is almost over,” he explained. “I wanted to keep going. […] I needed longer adventure.”

He then set his sights on the American Discovery Trail, a national trail spanning cities, deserts, small towns, forests and mountains. In 2020, he decided he was up for the challenge.

“I have to make this happen, or I’m going to keep putting it off,” he recalled thinking. “And there’s always going to be a reason not to do it.”

Seling chose to dedicate his journey to veteran suicide prevention, a cause extremely close to his heart.

“I’ve known a few people who’ve taken their lives, veterans who have taken their lives after getting out of the army,” he shared. “But I think that the main reason that I feel really compelled [by] this cause is because of everything that I’ve gone through personally. I’ve had so many suicidal thoughts and I just know the pain that I’ve gone through — and I know other veterans [experience] the same and worse.”

“When I regain my sense of self, and I come back to me, I realize how horrible that is,” he added. “Like, I don’t want to kill myself, I don’t want to hurt myself. I just want to bring that to other veterans, too … just some hope that their life can be different and better than they ever expected.”

For those interested in following along with Seling’s hike, he will be documenting the journey on his Instagram, Facebook and YouTube pages.

Visit his website to donate or learn more about the cause.

If you or someone you know is a veteran in need of mental health support, contact the VA’s Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 or the National Alliance on Mental Illness at 1-800-950-6264. You can also connect with aCrisis Text Line counselor at no charge by texting the word “HOME” to 741741.

If you found this story insightful, read about a veteran who live streams every day to honor his comrades lost to suicide.

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