Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’

Mark Newman: Courier: Iowa soldier seeks peace of mind through meditation and medication

July 30, 2012

Iowa soldier seeks peace of mind through meditation and medication

July 30, 2012

MARK NEWMAN Courier Staff Writer

War veteran Luke Jensen from Colo, Iowa, speaks with audience members after taking part in a presentation on post traumatic stress disorder Saturday in Fairfield. A civilian police officer and SWAT team member when his Army Reserve unit was deployed, Jensen thought he was too tough to suffer PTSD. Mark Newman/The Courier

FAIRFIELD — Military police sergeants, civilian police officers and SWAT team members are all supposed to be tough. Luke Jensen was all three, so when the stress of combat began eating away at him, he felt so ashamed, he wanted to die.

Meditation helped correct that desire — and he believes it could help other soldiers and veterans.

Jensen was asked by Operation Warrior Wellness to speak about his experiences with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) during a presentation Saturday on PTSD, the military and the advantages of Transcendental Meditation.

“The medical [tents] in Afghanistan were for 10th Mountain Division soldiers who’d been wounded in combat,” said the Nevada, Iowa man.

How could he possibly walk into that tent and tell a medic that he was sad?

He told the Fairfield audience that his base was hit their first night there. Gunshots, explosions and outgoing fire were nearly constant. And the things he saw around him were worse than he felt he could handle.

He couldn’t sleep, he was having panic attacks and in addition to worrying about himself, the staff sergeant had his men to lead.

“I thought I was tough,” he said.

But in a combat zone, his world was out of control. When sent to investigate a report of a little Afghani girl struck by a U.S. vehicle, he found the child dead near the road.

The upset family came to claim her. Jensen contacted the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division then kept people from walking onto the death scene. He had no translator. The locals were getting angrier and more numerous, not understanding why this armed foreigner would want to keep the girl’s body from her family.

Later, someone — Jensen never found out who — ran over and killed a nearby U.S. serviceman.

His nerves couldn’t handle any more. As soon as he was able, he decided to take his sidearm and shoot himself dead. When health personnel he’d sought out heard about his attempt, he was evacuated — which made him feel as though he’d failed in his duty.

At least he could move on with his life. So why did he keep thinking the most logical step would be to take his own life — even when back in the U.S.? He still couldn’t sleep. He still had panic attacks. And he felt a deep sense of shame — especially because while on a U.S. base receiving medical care, he saw the other soldiers who had “real” injuries.

Dr. Fred Travis, a psychologist in Fairfield, said PTSD produces an injury as real as any wound. Travis is the director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management.

CAT scans of patients suffering from PTSD, he said, provide evidence that the brains of sufferers are different from those without PTSD. The effect is physical.

But Jensen didn’t know his brain was short circuited. He was taking medication for depression and anxiety, back in Iowa working in law enforcement. He still wanted to die.

When his police supervisors heard he was suicidal, they began proceedings to terminate him.

“Jerry Yellin saved my life,” Jensen said.

Yellin was a World War II fighter pilot who went undiagnosed with PTSD for 30 years. Transcendental Meditation was what helped him find relaxation and peace. When he heard about the young soldier, he called him.

Yellin got support from MUM and the David Lynch Foundation in order to provide a sort of “scholarship” for Staff Sgt. Jensen and his wife to learn TM.

Jensen thought it’d be worth a try. He had recently made a suicide threat, loaded gun to his head in front of his wife and five-year-old daughter.

The trip to Fairfield was worth it, he said. He learned to find quiet in his mind, which allowed him to relax peacefully for the first time in a long time, he said.

Dr. Travis said what appears to be happening with PTSD is that in a combat zone, the mind naturally must be super vigilant. One needs to be able to see every danger, lock that sound or sight into the memory — and avoid it.

With PTSD, every similar noise or sight becomes a life-or-death situation. Memories of danger are “locked” into the brain. Worse, parts of the mind are “short circuited” so that while the “problem-seeing” part of the brain is stuck in the “on” position, the “problem-solving” part of the brain is off. Desperation develops when all you see are problems — problems with no solution.

By meditating, TM practitioners are trained to go around that damaged part of the brain, Yellin said.

Travis said CAT scans show that, too. There is more blood flow to the frontal lobes and the portion of the brain that is generally considered to be “in charge.”

In a video about their situation, Jensen’s wife said TM saved her husband’s life. Yellin wants more soldiers to have that opportunity, and is working with the David Lynch Foundation as co-chair of Operation Warrior Wellness.

Like other parts of the body, the brain responds to exercise, becoming more resilient.

“If your frontal lobes are more developed, we believe you will be better able to deal with stressful situations,” said Travis.

Presenters said practitioners of meditation are also better able to separate the quiet of inner peace from traumatic situations in the outside world. The military is starting to take notice, as is the Veterans Administration.

Chris Busch, director of programs for the David Lynch Foundation, said the VA has commissioned two large studies to see if TM really shows results.

TM is not a replacement for traditional medicine, he said. It can be, however, one of the options doctors offer mental health patients on their way to recovery.

Yellin said Saturday’s event was the start to an effort to provide scholarships every veteran who needs TM.

For more information, visit www.operationwarriorwellness.org.

Also published in Journal Express of CNHI/SE Iowa.

Other news coverage: KTVO News: How one soldier regained his life with help from WWII veteran and TM for PTSD and WHO TV 13: WARRIOR WELLNESS: Healing Hidden Wounds  |  Des Moines Register: Fairfield and Ames war veterans team up to bring meditation (TM) to fellow Iowa vets with PTSD  |  Fairfield Ledger cover article by Diane Vance: Combat stress subject of public forum Saturday  |  KTVO: Veterans speak out on post-traumatic stress, offer a proven way to heal PTSD  |  Story County Veteran Once Suicidal Finds Relief from PTSD with Transcendental Meditation: AmesPatch article by Jessica Miller  |  Healing the Hidden Wounds of War: open forum for Iowa veterans and their families affected by PTSD, sponsored by Operation Warrior Wellness | TM Blog: “TM saved my life”—Suicidal Afghanistan war veteran who suffered from PTSD

A Transcendental Cure for Post-Traumatic Stress by David Lynch and Norman E. Rosenthal

July 13, 2011
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL OPINION JULY 13, 2011
A Transcendental Cure for Post-Traumatic Stress
One study of soldiers showed a 50% reduction in symptoms after eight weeks of meditation.

By DAVID LYNCH and NORMAN E. ROSENTHAL

War wounds come in many forms. Some are obvious, such as scars, gashes and amputations. Others, the psychological ones, are less visible but equally devastating. The numbers in this second group are staggering: The military’s latest mental health survey of combat troops in Afghanistan found that 20%—one in five—suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

People with combat-related PTSD often suffer from periods of emotional numbness and depression that may coexist or alternate with intense anxiety and delusional thinking. Their days may be afflicted by flashbacks to traumatic situations. Their nights are often disrupted by sleeplessness and nightmares, from which they awake drenched in sweat as though back on the battlefield.

Yet most veterans with PTSD do not receive adequate treatment for various reasons, including fear of stigma, a dearth of effective treatments, and insufficient government resources. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army, recently acknowledged that, “The therapies used for treatment of brain injuries lag behind the advanced medical science employed for treating mechanical injuries.”

Clearly, there is a need for new, creative approaches: Transcendental Meditation, better known as TM, is a promising candidate. An ancient Vedic technique developed in India, TM was brought to the West in the late 1950s by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It involves sitting comfortably with eyes closed for 20 minutes twice a day while thinking a mantra. It does not require adherence to any religious belief system or ritual practices. Yet to date there are over 340 peer-reviewed papers describing the beneficial effects of TM on the mind and body.

lynch

The David Lynch Foundation recently hosted an event to help raise funds to teach TM to our wounded warriors returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan. We heard from veterans of three wars: Jerry Yellin, a fighter pilot in World War II who flew 19 missions over Japan; Dan Burks, who served in Vietnam; and David George, a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Despite differences in age and wartime experiences, these men had two things in common: All suffered terribly from PTSD, and all experienced tremendous relief from TM. Life became once again peaceful and even joyful for them.

What was clear from these men’s stories was how great a toll their symptoms took on their families, as well as on themselves. In a poignant video, Mr. George’s mother described the transformation of her son from a courteous young man into a hard-drinking, depressed and deeply disturbed veteran, who she feared would take his own life or someone else’s.

All that changed when Mr. George began to meditate on a regular basis. According to Ms. George, TM saved her son’s life.

In a study of Vietnam vets conducted by James S. Brooks and Thomas Scarano and published in the Journal of Counseling and Development in November 1985, TM outperformed the conventional psychotherapy of the day. More recently, a pilot study of five Iraq and Afghanistan veterans published in the June 2011 issue of Military Medicine showed a 50% reduction in PTSD symptoms after just eight weeks of practicing TM.

There is a scientific basis for the observed benefits of TM for combat-related PTSD. In several studies, TM has been shown to buffer fight-or-flight responses, which are thought to be overactive in people with PTSD, as evidenced by their hypervigilance, anxiety and exaggerated startle responses.

In addition, TM has been found to reduce blood pressure and decrease the risk of heart attacks and strokes—other conditions in which an overactive fight-or-flight response may play a role. In a similar manner, TM may modulate nervous system responses, thereby allowing affected veterans to relax and leave behind the traumas of war.

Regardless of how TM helps, the mounting evidence leads to one conclusion: If a simple, low-cost technique like TM can substantially alleviate the suffering of even some of the thousands of veterans afflicted with PTSD, how can we afford not to give it a try?

Mr. Lynch is a filmmaker and the founder of the David Lynch Foundation. Dr. Rosenthal is a clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School and the author of “Transcendence: Healing and Transformation Through Transcendental Meditation” (Tarcher-Penguin, 2011).

Photo credit: Associated Press
Link to article: http://on.wsj.com/rg8tYC

WSJ: LETTERS: VA Meditating on Good Therapies, July 22, 2011

In “A Transcendental Cure for Post-Traumatic Stress” (op-ed, July 13) David Lynch and Norman E. Rosenthal pose a challenge for the federal agency entrusted with caring for our nation’s 23 million veterans: “If a simple, low-cost technique like TM can substantially alleviate the suffering of even some of the thousands of veterans afflicted with PTSD, how can we afford not to give it a try?” In fact, Transcendental Meditation has received substantial attention at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health. Indeed, meditation and other forms of complementary and alternative medicine are already used at VA to help veterans suffering from PTSD. We have embarked on a series of clinical investigations to evaluate all forms of meditation, TM among them, in order to determine whether this promising technique can produce results consistently for our patients, and which kind of meditation, from among several practiced widely today, would be most helpful to them. VA is beginning demonstration projects across the country in different care settings. We are looking for a simple, natural, culturally neutral and repeatable technique that can augment existing PTSD treatments. These studies require us to be open to new techniques for prevention and treatment, as well as structured in our approach to determining their value and efficacy. The studies already conducted, and those currently underway, are listed at http://tinyurl.com/3gx74o3.

The promising personal experiences mentioned in the article and the dedicated efforts of our VA, DoD and NIH team offer us all hope for finding more effective treatments for PTSD. We can’t afford not to.

W. Scott Gould

Deputy Secretary

DVA

Robert A. Petzel, M.D.

Under Secretary for Health

DVA

Washington

Meditation May Ease PTSD for Vets

December 19, 2010

Health Stories Meditation May Ease PTSD for Vets

Tuesday, December 14, 2010 7:59 AM

Hollywood A-listers including Clint Eastwood joined grizzled U.S. military veterans Monday to promote what they called the near-miraculous powers of meditation in overcoming war stress.

The event in New York drew an unlikely alliance ranging from fashion designer Donna Karan to traumatized veterans of World War II, Vietnam, and Iraq.

Uniting them was a belief that transcendental meditation, dubbed TM for short, is the cheapest, most effective, and medication-free way of healing people who have suffered severe stress in war and any other extreme experience.

“I’m a great supporter of transcendental meditation. I’ve been using it for almost 40 years now. I think it’s a great tool for anyone to have,” said Eastwood, best known for playing violent, hardened characters on screen.

The fund-raising event at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York was organized by experimental filmmaker David Lynch, whose Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace encourages meditation along the lines espoused by famed guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

Lynch said his project, named “Operation Warrior Wellness,” aims to train 10,000 veterans in the art of finding inner peace.

Critics have cast doubt on the value of meditation for treating psychological disorders.

But Lynch said there are “a lot of misunderstandings about meditation.”

The director of “Blue Velvet” and “Mulholland Drive” said the technique can help everyone from disruptive school pupils to soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

PTSD is an increasingly high-profile problem among servicemen returning from Afghanistan and Iraq, a large number of whom are believed to fear revealing their disorder to military health staff.

Vietnam vet Dan Burks gave a moving account of the mental scars he carried after a battle in which he says he killed Vietnamese soldiers and lost many of his own troops.

PTSD, he said, “is a wound. It takes your life away, just like losing a limb.”

“But guess what: You can get rid of it,” he said, describing his life after discovery of transcendental meditation as “the difference between heaven and hell.”

Another veteran, World War II pilot Jerry Yellin, told the fund-raiser that for three decades after the end of the war against Japan he “found no satisfaction in life in anything I did.”

At age 51, he took up TM and says he found peace. “We have the ability to teach young people who are suffering tremendously … young people who are in a foreign land,” he said of today’s veterans.

One of those, a former infantry soldier in Iraq, said TM “cleared the skies and I could tell where I was going.”

“I felt this warm groovy feeling,” he said. “It just gets better and better.”

The star-studded event hosted by Lynch also saw testimonials from Karan and British comedian Russell Brand.

Brand said he had suffered severe stress from his much-publicized sex-and-drugs addictions and also found solace in TM.

“I felt love, sort of love for myself but also love for everyone else,” he said in a rambling speech delivered in his trademark hyper-energized style.

“I am a human being and it is applicable to all human beings. Someone, everyone can draw from it.”

Skeptics may question whether war veterans already unwilling to speak about their mental problems will embrace regular meditation. Lynch says they can.

“Clint Eastwood is about as macho as they get and he’s been meditating longer than I have,” he told The Wall Street Journal.

“We’re behind this technique and we think it can help veterans reclaim their lives and save themselves, their families, and their friendships.”

Copyright AFP

Newsmax is one of the nation’s leading news sites; and AFP, Agence France Presse, is one of the world’s major news services. This AFP story was picked up by hundreds of news markets around the world.

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