Man plans 3,000-mile journey across Atlantic to raise awareness for PTSD

For Rick Collins and Tim Crockett, the mythical Kraken creature — which attacks ships from under the ocean surface — is akin to the mental struggles of post-traumatic stress disorder.

"It lives deep down in your soul, and, on occasion, it can come up and just absolutely destroy you," said Collins, a Del Mar resident and British military veteran who has worked in nonprofits helping soldiers transition to civilian life for the last seven years.

Collins and Crockett are planning a major campaign to raise awareness of the mental health disorder that affects people like veterans, those in abusive situations and others who have endured stressful or dangerous events.

Crockett, 47, plans to row 3,000 miles solo across the Atlantic Ocean on a boat appropriately named The Kraken to raise awareness for PTSD and other mental health issues.

The Atlanta-based British military veteran said he was inspired to take the solo journey two years ago when a friend committed suicide after silently battling PTSD.

"When that happened, it sort of woke me up to the fact that I personally need to do something more to draw attention to this situation," said Crockett, who served with the British Royal Marines and Special Boat Service for nearly 13 years.

Inspired by viral challenges — such as the 22 Pushup Challenge, which aimed to raise awareness for veteran suicide — Crockett decided rowing across the Atlantic would be a good way to draw attention to the issue of PTSD. He will row as part of the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, where solo rowers or teams can trek along the 3,000-mile-plus ocean route from the Canary Islands to Antigua.

Most solo rowers complete the route in 52 days, while others have taken around 70 days, Crockett said. He hopes to complete the challenge within 50 days of the Dec. 12 launch date.

"Rowing in the ocean as a solo competitor is a big challenge, and I felt that the challenge was worthy of the charitable cause and the reasons why," Crockett said.

Since setting out on the challenge, Crockett has worked to raise money to fix the 23-foot boat with everything he needs for the journey. The specially designed rowboat, which costs about $100,000, includes fixtures to withstand the riggers of the Atlantic Ocean, along with 90 days worth of food, a life raft, beacons, satellite phones, cabin and a collapsible roof.

Perhaps the most important item on the boat is the water filtration system, which converts ocean water to fresh water for drinking and bathing, Crockett said.

"Everything on board is geared to safely getting across and comfortably getting across," he said. "It's a well-set-up race with an emphasis on successful, safe crossing."

Crockett said while he's had to work to prepare himself physically, much of the demand will be mental.

"It hasn't been that much of a change in my daily routine to get prepared," said Crockett, who considers exercising an everyday part of his life. "Speaking to a lot of former solo rowers, they say that it's mostly mental. It's going to be painful with a lot of emotional, physical and psychological stress. There's very little that can prepare you for that."

He said he's not worried about being alone for an extended period of time because he'll be able to communicate with family and friends through phone calls and social media. He also plans to equip the boat with a 24-hour camera and tracking system so supporters can stay updated on his whereabouts and progress.

Collins said when he first heard of Crockett's mission, he considered his friend "crazy."

"But then I thought, this country has a lot of donation fatigue," he continued. "We've been helping veterans who have been at war for 14 or 15 years. We have great guys doing ruck marches and big runs and walks. A lot of the general public isn't really interested anymore. ... We thought this was a way to grab attention again."

In order to help Crockett equip the boat, Collins will host a fundraiser at The Kraken bar, 2531 South Coast Highway 101 in Cardiff-By-The-Sea, on Aug. 23, beginning at 4:30 p.m.

The event will include live bands, raffles, auctions and drinks. One hundred percent of proceeds will go to preparing The Kraken boat for Crockett's journey.

People can also donate toward the vessel, as well as items like race fees and medical supplies, at www.tamethekraken.org.

Collins said one of his and Crockett's biggest goals is reducing or eliminating the stigma that is often found around PTSD.

"If you try to reduce or eliminate stigma, you have to be careful because in all likelihood, you'll increase it," Collins said. "We're not about this doom and gloom approach. We're about, 'Hey, this guy's going to row the Atlantic. It's pretty monumental."

To pre-register for the event, visit www.theunseenwounds.org.

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