I greatly admire Lily Casura, who started writing the website Healing Combat Trauma five years ago. We came across each other this past year as I became more concerned about what happens to Canada’s returning vets after they have served in Afghanistan. Lily believes in and promotes integrative medicine, the so-called “best of East and West,” as the greatest hope for sufferers of PTSD, something which Canadian soldiers and vets now battle in alarming numbers.
In Canada, Veterans Affairs and the general medical community have not dedicated sufficient time and resources to study what happens to those under repeated battle conditions. Their short-sightedness strikes a blow against the mental health of our troops as they have endured recurring long deployments in Afghanistan over the past nine years, as well as peacekeeping missions in conflicts like Bosnia, Kosovo or Rwanda, where they witnessed genocide and experienced defensive combat.
American psychiatrist Dr. Jim Gordon, who pioneered the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, D.C., and who has, with the Center, worked in war-torn areas all over the world, has a “Healing the Troops” track that Casura herself has taken and recommends. She writes in a posting from June, 2008:
Mind Body Medicine: Healing the Wounds of War
June 15, 2008 — When I started this blog over two years ago now, I was hoping that somehow James S. Gordon, M.D., and the Center for Mind-Body Medicine which he founded in Washington, DC, would somehow get involved in the prospect of bringing mind-body medicine to the troops. Gordon is a Harvard-trained psychiatrist, with impeccable credentials, who has a lifetime interest in expanding patient care into new areas, particularly Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), and mind-body medicine in particular. (Mind-body medicine is a shorthand way of re-combining the two “halves” of medicine perhaps unjustly sundered in an arbitrary Cartesian mind-body split. Much of Eastern thought, rather than Western, never saw them divided at all.) In a previous lifetime, where I interviewed luminaries in the natural medicine field, Gordon was a favorite interviewee – smart, genial and with a very forward-thinking grasp of what mind-body medicine could accomplish. Gordon, who was featured in the Bill Moyers series on PBS, Healing and the Mind, was a frequent lecturer at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, and for years had served as the head of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine. He is also a Clinical Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Family Medicine at Georgetown University Medical School.
But more to our purposes, when war broke out in Kosovo, he and the Center for Mind-Body Medicine (CMBM) took their methods into the region, creating a program called “Healing the Wounds of War,” to help war-torn schoolchildren and their caregivers manage the trauma they had undergone, through a sustained, devastating conflict. What I was hoping — and I kept checking the CMBM website periodically to find out — was that they would leapfrog off their successes with PTSD in Bosnia and Kosovo, and Israel and the Middle East, and develop something geared to PTSD in service members, and the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. For years, nothing was obvious (yet), but here’s some of their success with children in Kosovo. Notice what symptoms the program helped with, how impressive the statistics are, and make the conceptual leap to how this might help with combat veterans and/or their families:
The clinical efficacy of the CMBM program with traumatized children has been repeatedly demonstrated. In a pilot study in which high school teachers in the Suhareka region of Kosovo used the CMBM model, levels of post traumatic stress disorder in high school students were reduced from an average of 88% to 38% in only six weeks (read the research, published in Journal of Traumatic Stress, April 2004, linked here). Participants have also reported the following documented effects of CMBM trainings, including: the alleviation of their own stress and trauma; decreases in anxiety and depression; increased optimism; decreased anger; and increased capacity to help others.
You can read more about the program’s specific successes, here. Or, you can read a general overview of the program and what’s involved, here. You can also read Dr. Gordon’s bio, here.
LILY CASURA, December 29, 2010