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Preventing and Eliminating PTSD in the lives of Military Women
by Janet Hoffmen
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5 September 2015
The New York Times reported on August 20th that women have graduated from the Army's select Ranger School for the first time in the school's history. The two women who made the grade scored exceptionally well on important performance evaluations made by fellow students. According to the NYT, '' 'Their success will diminish most arguments against women holding other combat positions,' defense officials say.''
Many women serving in the US military consider this graduation to be a strong confirmation that there should be no glass ceiling for women.
Aside from the natural inclination to protect our loved ones—male and female—from the potentially horrible mental and physical outcomes of the experience of combat, we also want to be ready to heal them when they complete their duties. However, many of the therapies and medications prescribed to veterans are inadequate and costly. Because research shows that most women take in stress more deeply than men and are more affected by it, our society is responsible to seek measures that will successfully restore them to a state of well-being after deployment.
More than half a million U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001 suffer from PTSD. Almost a fifth of female veterans from those conflicts have been diagnosed with PTSD. Forty percent of all homeless people are veterans and 8% of these are women veterans. Health care costs for veterans with post-traumatic stress have been estimated at $12.4 billion annually.
According to Dr. Sarina Grosswald, an expert working with veterans and concerned foundations on PTSD and stress-related disorders, the US military approaches stress reduction from an academic standpoint; prior to deployment, soldiers must complete some stress management courses. Dr. Grosswald has met with many soldiers, military school students, and veterans. Her experience is that soldiers equipped with the effective scientifically verified stress reduction method called Transcendental Meditation are less likely to develop PTSD during combat. ''You can teach somebody something from a book, but a lot of that goes out the window when trauma happens,'' she said. ''With TM, you're training the brain so the threshold for stress is different. . . . Soldiers could come back to a baseline quicker, responding in a clearer way.''
Speaking at a New York symposium on women, veterans, PTSD and the Transcendental Meditation program, special correspondent for CBS best-selling author Rita Cosby championed TM for veterans. She said she wished her father, who suffered silently with PTSD for 65 years, had the benefit of learning it as a returning veteran so he could have healed from his combat related afflictions.
Supriya Vidic started her six year military career at the age of 19. She enlisted to satisfy her desire for adventure, but also, following 9/11, to be a part of history. From 2007 to 2009, she was a sergeant in Iraq. In one month in 2008, her location was bombed about fifty times each day. In an interview, she said the chronic stress can put a soldier in flight-or-fight mode, causing the soldier to live life in fear, day after day. Upon returning home, PTSD ruins mental, physical and emotional health and relationships. Supriya says that TM would help soldiers both in preventing the build-up of stress and in releasing it. Of the veterans she's observed who found little relief from PTSD by using medication and counseling, when they eventually learned Transcendental Meditation, she said ''. . . their lives transformed.'' The national veterans' organization Wounded Warrior Project has provided funds for learning TM to military veterans who are affected by PTSD or other mental health challenges due to their service. Women with the commitment, will-power, strength and endurance of our two new Army Rangers also deserve the TM technique as a part of their military training to increase their resilience and as a tool for immediate reduction of stress for their use every day of active duty and every day after.
Janet Hoffman is the executive director of the TM Program for Women Professionals in the USA.
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