When the Soldier Comes Home from War
Last summer, ABC News featured a story called, Breaking Down the Walls and Helping Vets Become ‘Horse Whisperers’. You can watch the report here and find out why Winston Churchill has been quoted to say that, “The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man.” (I’d like to add ‘woman’ to that, too!)
According to the site, HealMyPTSD.com these are some of the statistics for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder affecting Military service men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan:
- Lifetime occurrence (prevalence) in combat veterans 10 – 30%.
- In the past year alone the number of diagnosed cases in the military jumped 50%– and that’s just diagnosed cases.
- Studies estimate that 1 in every 5 military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan has PTSD.
- 20% of the soldiers who’ve been deployed in the past 6 years have PTSD. That’s over 300,000.
- 17% of combat troops are women; 71% of female military personnel develop PTSD due to sexual assault within the ranks.
- Doing the breakdown by war:
- Afghanistan = 6 – 11% returning vets have PTSD
- Iraq = 12 – 20% returning vets have PTSD
(Military statistics as of 12/2010)
The website, FaceTheFactsUSA.org did a statistical piece called, When the War Comes Home with the Soldier, where they added the following social and economic costs of PTSD to the above statistics.
- First-year treatment alone costs the government $8,300 per person, or more than $2 billion so far.
- Suicides among active-duty military personnel averaged one per day in 2012.
- Veterans now account for 20 percent of suicides in the U.S., with the youngest (24 and under) taking their lives at four times the rate for other veteran age groups.
And the following is from an article published by the American Psychology Association titled, The Critical Need for Mental Health Professionals Trained to Treat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury.
Female veterans are particularly likely to suffer from mental health issues. According to the VA, about one-in-five female veterans have post-traumatic stress related to “military sexual trauma,” a catch-all category that includes everything from sexual harassment to rape. Also, women are the fastest growing subset of the homeless-veteran population in America (J. Kitfield, National Journal, 2011).
Stigma associated with mental illness in military communities. The Army recognizes that stigma is a major barrier for veterans in need of mental health care (Mental Health Advisory Team IV, 2007). According to SAMHSA, service members frequently cite fear of personal embarrassment, disappointing comrades, losing the opportunity for career advancement, and dishonorable discharge as motivations to hide symptoms of mental illness from family, friends and colleagues (2007).
Veterans seek help outside the system.VA data indicates that 22 percent of veterans receive their mental health care outside the VA system. (2005) The percentage varies from state to state, with the rural states having the greatest percentage of veterans who get care outside the system (McClatchy Newspapers, Feb. 9, 2007).
Inaccessible mental health providers. A Department of Defense task force found that a significant number of veterans face constrained access to care when they return to their communities. In fact, one-third of both the National Guard and reservists reported choosing civilian care because they lived too far from a military treatment facility (An Achievable Vision, 2007).
Inadequately trained mental health providers. VA policy has no provision for ensuring that community mental health professionals have appropriate expertise to effectively treat veterans (Testimony by the Wounded Warrior Project in front of the Veterans Affairs Committee, 2009). Surveys also found that many veterans seeking help are not properly identified as having PTSD (Mental Health Advisory Team IV, 2007)
Equine Alchemy is now part the solution!
My sister Susan Murrell Castañeda and I are launching the WAR HORSE Coach Training program on June 1st, 2014 in Corrales, New Mexico. WAR HORSE emerged from the wounds that Susan and her husband, (an Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran) suffered as they journeyed to embrace the mythic dimensions of the war experience; its painful truths and tragic losses….including a 20 year marriage.
As a result of those losses, WAR HORSE was formed as its own warrior’s path. Our vision is to offer a unique and powerful method of recognizing warrior-hood as a psycho-spiritual identity, along with the rituals, ceremonies, values and traditions associated with it.
Our vision is to train an ‘army’ of practitioners qualified to deliver WAR HORSE Equine Assisted Healing as the leap out of suffering for Veterans and families and the opportunity to fully return home.
On June 1st the first ‘platoon’ of Equine Alchemy coaches will embark on a week-long intensive training to explore and gain the fundamental skill sets necessary to understand:
- The Military Culture
- PTSD as a Soul Wound
- The Role of The Equine Partner in Working with Veterans and spouses
- Integration and Experiential Application
Our veterans and their families deserve the space and compassion to heal themselves in order to become thriving, productive, peaceful warriors.
In closing I’d like to share this quote from War and the Soul by Edward Tick: ”Service to Veterans and their families, whether it is witnessing the horror they experienced or helping to relieve its brutal psychological and spiritual impact, is no less than the Jewish practice of tikkun olam, which means “repairing the world. Not only in our large scale efforts at social justice or world peace but also, and perhaps especially, in our deep, slow one-on-one efforts with individuals, the tears in our world may be repaired. As the ancient rabbinical sage Hillel said, ‘whosoever saves one person, it is as if they have saved the entire world’.”