Randy Taran, Founder & CEO of Project Happiness, producer of the award-winning Documentary and author of The Project Happiness Handbook, talks about ways to be happier with small changes that yield big results. Below is a post about helping our returning soldiers reconnect with their path to happiness.
This Memorial Day let's makes some time to think about not only those who have given their lives for their country and not returned -- what about those returning soldiers who have given their inner lives and who are now paying an enormous price? What about the growing number who, though they make it home alive, feel dead on the inside because their mental and emotional lives have taken the biggest hit? "As many as several hundred thousand may now suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, experts say. They struggle with anxiety, anger, depression, flashbacks and nightmares. The ailment can take years to emerge, and many more cases are likely to appear." While this Memorial Day we honor those that have given their bodies for their country, it's also time to honor and give attention to those who have given their hearts. The good news is that there is hope.
The Problem of Stigma:
First, it's important to recognize that for the multitudes of men and women who suffer from PTSD, there is a built-in stigma in the military that makes it hard for those warriors to get the help they need to rebuild their lives. For many, having mental health issues signifies weakness, and they have been trained to be strong. While it is widely accepted to see a doctor for something physical, when the wounds that are disrupting a soldier's life are mental or emotional, they are expected to be stoic, to tough it out and press on. Even though they are back from war, there is no inner peace, and it can be humiliating to admit how bad the situation really is. The stigma itself is a major problem that needs to be addressed head on. In actuality, it takes a lot of strength, self-awareness and courage to say, "All that I hold dear is falling apart, my life is not as it should be -- I need to get help."
Meds Alone Are Not The Answer:
Let's look at the type of remedies that are being offered. For those who do have the courage to seek help, they often have to wait long periods for appointments, and follow-ups are not consistent. The prescription meds, which are often the first course of action, while sometimes helpful, can often dull, disorient and further isolate those soldiers trying to find relief. The combination of drugs and behavioral therapy does not work for many. It's no surprise that veterans try other ways to self-medicate to ease the pain. Suicides among returning soldiers is a growing problem. A Forbes article reports that "veterans now commit suicide at the rate of 22 a day, or almost one an hour." Many cannot find the ways to transition from their intense experiences and highly structured lives in the military to the vastly different expectations, and lack of set structure they encounter when they return home. Even reconnecting with family and loved ones presents huge challenges when sleep deprived and tormented by anxieties.
New Signs of Hope:
The good news is that there are new signs of hope. A promising approach can be seen in programs that have been designed to treat PTSD with a combination of stress reduction and mindfulness. "The collaborative study from the University of Michigan Health System and the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System discovered the eight-week mindfulness-based group treatment plan was more effective than traditional treatment. After eight weeks of treatment, 73 percent of patients in the mindfulness group displayed meaningful improvement compared to 33 percent in the treatment-as-usual groups." Congressman Tim Ryan has written a book called The Mindful Nation, which promotes the use of yoga and meditation-based practices to heal the inner wounds of war and help our soldiers reintegrate into society. Project Welcome Home Troops is one example of the programs that have seen great success in very little time. The new documentary Free the Mind tells the compelling story of how it has changed lives.
Call to Action:
As a mother with children almost the same age as many of the soldiers, it's time to look at some new ways to heal these young people who have given their inner lives in service. How can we make a difference and get them the help that will serve them? These individuals who have given so much, at such personal cost, are real and living and they are reaching out -- this Memorial Day is a reminder that they, their loved ones and families deserve our help.