Alex Olsen

Alumni

Problem

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 1 in 6 American adults suffer from a mental illness. Because of increased rates of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suicide has become the second leading cause of death in the age group 15 – 34. The New York Times reports that these statistics have surged to a 30-year high. This mental health problem is even more severe in the U.S. military community. Every day we lose 20 veterans to suicide.

Alex did not understand the true impact of these statistics until he lived them. His friend, Alex Q., was smart and successful. Tragically, however, he was fighting unseen battles. Fighting alone, the battles overcame him. Alex Q.’s mother, overcome by grief, took her own life. He was only one person, but Alex Q. left behind a broken family and a broken community.

Pathway

After this experience, Alex began struggling with his own mental health challenges. Fortunately, he was never alone. Families and friends provided critical support. He also received training in mindfulness meditation that changed his life. This ancient practice empowered him with strength, peace and control. Research revealed that Alex was among many who had already benefited from meditation. More than 300 hundred clinical studies have proven meditation to be an effective treatment for anxiety, depression and PTSD. Alex is now determined to bring meditation to the military. This innovative tool, combined with coaching and community support, will prevent people from fighting their battles alone.

Person

Alex received his MPP from the Harvard Kennedy School. Currently, he is serving in the U.S. Air Force. As an officer, he is leveraging his position as a resiliency trainer and victims advocate to provide coaching to at-risk individuals. For new recruits and victims of sexual assault, Alex is teaching mindfulness meditation, and other resiliency tools, while building a supportive community.