According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 20 percent of Iraqi war veterans have returned with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and 11 percent of veterans of the war in Afghanistan demonstrate symptoms of PTSD. Those figures mean little unless they are put into greater perspective. For example, in 2011, 200,000 soldiers returned home with PTSD according to reports.
PTSD symptoms are as varied as the individuals who have experienced the mental trauma. Some generalize to feelings of emotional numbness in relation to close friends or relatives. There may be a loss of interest in once loved hobbies or activities. Flashbacks, aggression, violence, sleeplessness disengagement and irritability are a few of the manifestations. The condition’s duration differs from person to person. Some people recover within months, while others have symptoms for years. In some the condition is chronic and if untreated, lasts a lifetime.
Studies have found that of those returning with PTSD, half do not seek help. Indeed, some studies have shown that the suicide rates for soldiers returning home have increased in the years following 2004. With no end in sight to our involvement in the Middle East, it appears that this trend will continue as sufferers, their friends and relatives, including the culture at large, sustain the effects and impact of soldiers who return with PTSD .
On a positive note, there are successful programs for soldiers if they seek out treatment for their condition. The Department of Veterans Affairs has begun developing initiatives beyond the palliative group therapy and pill popping they routinely offer for the mental debilitation demonstrated by veterans. As the government addresses the issue of returning vets with greater fervor, non profits have stepped in to take up the perceived slack.
The Wounded Warrior Project is perhaps the best known and one of the more successful non profits to help returning veterans. There are others that are springing up to fulfill the former service member’s needs like Warrior Writers and The Paws of War created by The Guardians of Rescue.
Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY has been an active nonprofit supporting individuals, vets and family members dealing with PTSD. They have continued to offer workshops and conferences to address the various needs of military communities, families dealing with PTSD, and professionals working with active duty soldiers and veterans. Earlier this year Omega Institute hosted a 5-day retreat for vets entitled “The Costs of War, Violence & Denial.” At the retreat vets learned meditation techniques to increase and encourage a lifestyle of wellness, while diminishing effects of PTSD.
This weekend Omega Institute held a conference entitled Veterans, Trauma and Treatment about the impact of PTSD on warriors, caregivers and their families. The conference also provided information about the cutting-edge mind-body modalities that the military is investigating as a complement to drug/talk programs.
Next week, from October 20-25, there is a 5-day workshop planned for yoga teachers servicing military communities, entitled “Teaching Yoga in Military Communities: Advanced Teaching Skills for Addressing Combat-Related Issues.” Also during the week October 20-25, Omega is offering “Healing from Military Trauma: A Retreat for Military Women and Women Veterans.” Yearly, the Omega Institute will continue to offer programs for veterans who suffer from trauma regardless of whichever war they have fought in.
Healing from the condition is gradual and wellness is not achieved overnight, but by a process of working through. There are no quick and dirty results, there is no immediate release from the effects of such debilitating trauma. Nevertheless, there is a way to health. The first step is to seek help to engage a process of relief.