I know from my experience in Iraq just how stressful deployments can be. Last week a new survey conducted by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) found that 1 in 3 post-9/11 veterans has considered suicide. Forty-five percent of those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan know a veteran who has thought about taking his or her own life. And 37 percent know a veteran who has committed suicide.
We have to do more to help our soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen deal with stress. Drugs and some talk-therapy alone are not enough.
New research on active duty U.S. military personnel at Fort Gordon in Augusta, Georgia, who suffered from the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), found the twice-daily practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique markedly reduced symptoms of PTSD. This research, published in the July 2013 issue of Military Medicine, is the third research study to show TM's significant benefits for those with PTSD.
The need for evidence-based, alternative approaches for reducing PTSD is enormous, says Dr. Norman Rosenthal, clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School and co-author of a study on OEF/OIF veterans that found a 40 to 50 percent reduction in PTSD symptoms—including depression, anxiety, flashbacks, and insomnia; and reduced stress levels and quicker recovery from stress—in those practicing Transcendental Meditation. Dr. Rosenthal also found decreased smoking, alcohol, and drug abuse.
I am among a growing number of veterans who have learned to practice Transcendental Meditation. I've helped to start a new association of veterans who practice TM with the purpose of organizing conferences to inform our fellow veterans about the unique value of the TM program.
On August 17, our [Washington] DC Veterans Association Practicing the TM Program will host our first conference with medical researchers, psychologists, cognitive therapy specialists, and local meditating vets to explore the impact of TM on PTSD and quality of life.
On October 17, in New York City, the NYC TM vets organization will co-host a benefit gala honoring FDNY Commissioner and Vietnam veteran Salvatore Cassano along with Hugh Jackman and Jerry Seinfeld, to raise funds to teach 1,000 NY Tri-State veterans and first responders to meditate.
Here's what my friend, Ron Khare, a veteran of the Marine Corps who served in Vietnam, says about how TM helped him after coming home from Vietnam:
''I was devoid of feelings for people, and with no vision for the future. I only knew two things for sure: First, that I returned home alive and intact; and second, that the only way I could make sense of all the wounds and death my fellow marines and friends suffered, was to remember them and go on with my life. So I went on. But really I was walking dead. My brother told me about Transcendental Meditation, and I was skeptical. But I started—and thank God I did. It gave me my life back. Every veteran deserves to learn TM—every veteran deserves to have his or her life back.''
Below is a video of my friend and fellow Iraq veteran, David George, talking about his experience. The video includes his mom talking about David's PTSD and the help TM gave him. It's a good reminder that PTSD doesn't just involve soldiers, but also their families as well. Check it out. It's telling and moving.
I know that learning Transcendental Meditation allowed me to reconnect with what I had lost, strengthen my relationships, and feel more alive than ever before. It has truly changed my life. I cannot imagine a more effective or beneficial form of training to offer the men and women of the armed forces. As my friend, and former Marine sergeant, emphatically says, ''They all deserve it.''
— — — — — — — — —
James Wilson is a 26-year old veteran. He is currently enrolled at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, USA, where he is completing his bachelor's degree. After graduate studies, he plans to take the necessary training to become a certified teacher of the Transcendental Meditation program. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org