Want to help a veteran suffering from PTSD? Here’s how

With the headlines of U.S. Navy Fleet Commander Scott A. Stearney’s untimely death earlier this month, it is just another tragic reminder of the toll combat takes on these brave men and women even after they come home. The numbers are mind-blowing. The Department of Veterans Affairs recently reported that more than 20 veterans and … Continue reading “Want to help a veteran suffering from PTSD? Here’s how”

With the headlines of U.S. Navy Fleet Commander Scott A. Stearney’s untimely death earlier this month, it is just another tragic reminder of the toll combat takes on these brave men and women even after they come home.

The numbers are mind-blowing. The Department of Veterans Affairs recently reported that more than 20 veterans and active duty service members, guardsmen and reservists commit suicide every day in this country. That’s nearly one suicide every hour, and more than 80 percent of them are veterans.

There aren’t enough people and systems to help veterans, and they keep falling through the cracks. I consider these people a vastly underserved and unreached community.

The effects of combat-related trauma run deep, down to the warrior’s very heart and soul. I know this from personal experience, having served four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

War keeps you running at full speed, always on guard, ready to fight at a moment’s notice. After enduring such extreme conditions for long periods of time, returning to the normality of civilian life is not easy.

When I came home, nothing felt real to me. Watching TV with my wife didn’t feel real. Walking through the aisles of the grocery store didn’t seem real. My feelings were not easy to identify at first. I just felt “off,” but I didn’t always know why. I didn’t know what was happening to me.

This is common among veterans who struggle after returning home. We can’t always draw a straight line from how we feel back to the experience of combat. We don’t want to      believe that the fighting affected us.

I was in denial. I didn’t want to acknowledge the strange sensations for what they were. But eventually, I couldn’t ignore what was happening. I was struggling with the after-effects of combat.

Everyone experiences this differently. There are, however, a few classic signs — anger, insomnia, obsessive-compulsive behavior and flashbacks. At one point or another, I have suffered from all of them.

Eventually, I got help, and there are some wonderful organizations that help veterans, but many veterans aren’t as fortunate as I was. Typical interventions such as clinical treatments and group therapies are inadequate and usually ignore the spiritual dimension to trauma. The spiritual dimension to trauma includes topics such as grief, guilt, and shame. It can manifest through things that the warrior has experienced or done on the battlefield.

Many veterans dealing with these challenges isolate themselves from friends and family. They don’t think that people understand what they’ve been through. It’s hard for veterans to communicate to non-veterans about combat experiences and post-combat struggles. A common complaint from family and friends is, “I can’t reach him or her” or “They won’t talk to me.”

Veterans do want help. But sometimes they just don’t know how to communicate it. And once they’re able to speak out, they don’t always know how to connect or who to connect with. That’s why it’s very important that when veterans reach out, especially to a church or nonprofit, the organization is ready to receive them.

These organizations should have a program to get the veterans connected with a small group of people who understand and appreciate the veteran and his or her family. Belonging to a community with a sense of camaraderie is key. It’s something veterans had while in the service and something they are looking for when they get out.

It is crucial that when our veterans return home that they have available to them a support group that will help them walk through everything they have experienced on the battlefield. Even more so, these groups are imperative to helping these brave men and women begin the healing process, pointing them in the right direction to restore broken relationships and begin to knit together the wounds of the heart. Ultimately, that is what will assure a successful transition back into mainstream society.

Air Force Special Operations Lt. Col. Damon Friedman is the founder of SOF Missions, a non-profit organization aimed at helping veterans. He is the executive producer of the award winning film, ”Surrender Only To One,” which is now available on Amazon and iTunes.

Meditation helps vets with post-traumatic stress disorder

Meditation worked as well as traditional therapy for military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder in a small experiment sponsored by the Department of Defense.

One method preferred by the Department of Veterans Affairs is exposure therapy, but it doesn’t work for everyone and many can’t handle what it requires: purposely recalling traumatic events and confronting emotions.

Meditation could be a better choice for some, the researchers said.

The experiment tested meditation against exposure therapy, which involves working with a therapist and gradually letting go of fears triggered by painful memories.

DUTCH TEEN DIES AFTER INHALING DEODORANT SPRAY TO GET HIGH

Many vets won’t try exposure therapy or drop out because it’s too difficult, said Thomas Rutledge, the study’s senior author and a Veterans Affairs psychologist in San Diego.

Evidence for meditation “allows us to put more options on the table” with confidence they work, Rutledge said.

The study was published Thursday in the journal Lancet Psychiatry.

About 400,000 veterans had a PTSD diagnosis in 2013, according to the VA health system. The VA already is using meditation, yoga and similar approaches to supplement traditional therapy with PTSD, said Paula Schnurr, executive director of the VA’s National Center for PTSD.

While the three-month study adds to evidence supporting these lifestyle practices, Schnurr said, more research is needed to learn how long meditation’s benefits last.

PTSD: WHAT IS IT AND HOW TO SPOT IT 

“There’s no follow-up in this study,” Schnurr noted, and one therapist did 80 percent of the exposure therapy so the findings hinge largely on one therapist’s skills.

Researchers measured symptoms in about 200 San Diego area veterans randomly assigned to one of three groups. Some learned to meditate. Others got exposure therapy. The third group attended classes where they learned about nutrition and exercise.

All sessions were once a week for 90 minutes.

After three months, 61 percent of the meditation group improved on a standard PTSD assessment, compared to 42 percent of those who got exposure therapy and 32 percent of those who went to classes. When researchers accounted for other factors, meditation was better than the classes and equally effective as exposure therapy.

The researchers defined success as at least a 10-point improvement in scores on a standard symptoms test, given to participants by people who did not know which kind of treatment they’d received. The test measures symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares and insomnia.

PTSD also can be treated with medications or other types of talk therapy. Many of the participants were taking prescribed medicine for PTSD.

Most of the vets were men with combat-related trauma, so it’s not clear whether meditation would be equally effective in women or with other types of trauma.

There’s growing interest in meditation in the United States. A government survey last year found 14 percent of adults said they had recently meditated, up from 4 percent from a similar survey five years earlier.

There are many styles of meditation. The type taught to vets in the study was transcendental meditation, or TM, which involves thinking of a mantra or sound to settle the mind.

TM was developed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a guru to the Beatles in the late 1960s. Some of the study authors are affiliated with a university in Fairfield, Iowa, founded by Maharishi. Their role was to oversee the meditation training.

Rutledge, who was the principal researcher, said he does not practice meditation himself.

Meditation could be more acceptable to veterans who might associate mental health treatment with weakness, Rutledge said.

“It’s probably less threatening,” he said. “It may be easier to talk to veterans about participating in something like meditation.”

Meditation helps vets with post-traumatic stress disorder

Meditation worked as well as traditional therapy for military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder in a small experiment sponsored by the Department of Defense.

One method preferred by the Department of Veterans Affairs is exposure therapy, but it doesn’t work for everyone and many can’t handle what it requires: purposely recalling traumatic events and confronting emotions.

Meditation could be a better choice for some, the researchers said.

The experiment tested meditation against exposure therapy, which involves working with a therapist and gradually letting go of fears triggered by painful memories.

DUTCH TEEN DIES AFTER INHALING DEODORANT SPRAY TO GET HIGH

Many vets won’t try exposure therapy or drop out because it’s too difficult, said Thomas Rutledge, the study’s senior author and a Veterans Affairs psychologist in San Diego.

Evidence for meditation “allows us to put more options on the table” with confidence they work, Rutledge said.

The study was published Thursday in the journal Lancet Psychiatry.

About 400,000 veterans had a PTSD diagnosis in 2013, according to the VA health system. The VA already is using meditation, yoga and similar approaches to supplement traditional therapy with PTSD, said Paula Schnurr, executive director of the VA’s National Center for PTSD.

While the three-month study adds to evidence supporting these lifestyle practices, Schnurr said, more research is needed to learn how long meditation’s benefits last.

PTSD: WHAT IS IT AND HOW TO SPOT IT 

“There’s no follow-up in this study,” Schnurr noted, and one therapist did 80 percent of the exposure therapy so the findings hinge largely on one therapist’s skills.

Researchers measured symptoms in about 200 San Diego area veterans randomly assigned to one of three groups. Some learned to meditate. Others got exposure therapy. The third group attended classes where they learned about nutrition and exercise.

All sessions were once a week for 90 minutes.

After three months, 61 percent of the meditation group improved on a standard PTSD assessment, compared to 42 percent of those who got exposure therapy and 32 percent of those who went to classes. When researchers accounted for other factors, meditation was better than the classes and equally effective as exposure therapy.

The researchers defined success as at least a 10-point improvement in scores on a standard symptoms test, given to participants by people who did not know which kind of treatment they’d received. The test measures symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares and insomnia.

PTSD also can be treated with medications or other types of talk therapy. Many of the participants were taking prescribed medicine for PTSD.

Most of the vets were men with combat-related trauma, so it’s not clear whether meditation would be equally effective in women or with other types of trauma.

There’s growing interest in meditation in the United States. A government survey last year found 14 percent of adults said they had recently meditated, up from 4 percent from a similar survey five years earlier.

There are many styles of meditation. The type taught to vets in the study was transcendental meditation, or TM, which involves thinking of a mantra or sound to settle the mind.

TM was developed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a guru to the Beatles in the late 1960s. Some of the study authors are affiliated with a university in Fairfield, Iowa, founded by Maharishi. Their role was to oversee the meditation training.

Rutledge, who was the principal researcher, said he does not practice meditation himself.

Meditation could be more acceptable to veterans who might associate mental health treatment with weakness, Rutledge said.

“It’s probably less threatening,” he said. “It may be easier to talk to veterans about participating in something like meditation.”

Meditation helps vets with post-traumatic stress disorder

Meditation worked as well as traditional therapy for military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder in a small experiment sponsored by the Department of Defense.

One method preferred by the Department of Veterans Affairs is exposure therapy, but it doesn’t work for everyone and many can’t handle what it requires: purposely recalling traumatic events and confronting emotions.

Meditation could be a better choice for some, the researchers said.

The experiment tested meditation against exposure therapy, which involves working with a therapist and gradually letting go of fears triggered by painful memories.

DUTCH TEEN DIES AFTER INHALING DEODORANT SPRAY TO GET HIGH

Many vets won’t try exposure therapy or drop out because it’s too difficult, said Thomas Rutledge, the study’s senior author and a Veterans Affairs psychologist in San Diego.

Evidence for meditation “allows us to put more options on the table” with confidence they work, Rutledge said.

The study was published Thursday in the journal Lancet Psychiatry.

About 400,000 veterans had a PTSD diagnosis in 2013, according to the VA health system. The VA already is using meditation, yoga and similar approaches to supplement traditional therapy with PTSD, said Paula Schnurr, executive director of the VA’s National Center for PTSD.

While the three-month study adds to evidence supporting these lifestyle practices, Schnurr said, more research is needed to learn how long meditation’s benefits last.

PTSD: WHAT IS IT AND HOW TO SPOT IT 

“There’s no follow-up in this study,” Schnurr noted, and one therapist did 80 percent of the exposure therapy so the findings hinge largely on one therapist’s skills.

Researchers measured symptoms in about 200 San Diego area veterans randomly assigned to one of three groups. Some learned to meditate. Others got exposure therapy. The third group attended classes where they learned about nutrition and exercise.

All sessions were once a week for 90 minutes.

After three months, 61 percent of the meditation group improved on a standard PTSD assessment, compared to 42 percent of those who got exposure therapy and 32 percent of those who went to classes. When researchers accounted for other factors, meditation was better than the classes and equally effective as exposure therapy.

The researchers defined success as at least a 10-point improvement in scores on a standard symptoms test, given to participants by people who did not know which kind of treatment they’d received. The test measures symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares and insomnia.

PTSD also can be treated with medications or other types of talk therapy. Many of the participants were taking prescribed medicine for PTSD.

Most of the vets were men with combat-related trauma, so it’s not clear whether meditation would be equally effective in women or with other types of trauma.

There’s growing interest in meditation in the United States. A government survey last year found 14 percent of adults said they had recently meditated, up from 4 percent from a similar survey five years earlier.

There are many styles of meditation. The type taught to vets in the study was transcendental meditation, or TM, which involves thinking of a mantra or sound to settle the mind.

TM was developed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a guru to the Beatles in the late 1960s. Some of the study authors are affiliated with a university in Fairfield, Iowa, founded by Maharishi. Their role was to oversee the meditation training.

Rutledge, who was the principal researcher, said he does not practice meditation himself.

Meditation could be more acceptable to veterans who might associate mental health treatment with weakness, Rutledge said.

“It’s probably less threatening,” he said. “It may be easier to talk to veterans about participating in something like meditation.”