Back with another post on healing our military Wounded Warriors and Veterans through holistic care. In the current wars, our main problems are not bullet wounds, or even amputations, but traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Studies have estimated that as many as 30% of those deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from one or both of these conditions ( as do many Veterans of prior conflicts). Conventional medicine (pills and surgery), while sometimes helpful, are often not effective. Fortunately, there is growing evidence that some very simple and inexpensive therapies– making art or music, and spending time in nature– are often very helpful in TBI/PTSD. For instance, studies have shown:
–Music therapy improves cognitive function and depression in TBI;
–Art therapy improves anxiety and depression in PTSD patients, while music therapy and pre-sleep drawing exercises improve sleep and reduce nightmares;
–Dancing improves balance and coordination in TBI patients, compared to muscle-based physical therapy;
–Art making can help military families deal with the stress of military deployment. (References available on request).
Testimony from Wounded Warriors backs up these findings. At the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE), Bethesda , MD– the military’s cutting-edge care center for TBI/PTSD– patients routinely describe the arts program as the single most helpful part of their therapy.
These modalities are also quite safe (an estimated 0.5% incidence of adverse effects, compared to 20% or more for pills and surgery). Best of all, you don’t need a hospital or clinic to administer them. By offering local arts programs and garden projects, communities can help heal their Warriors and Veterans in their own neighborhoods.
My next posts will tell about the healing effects of exposure to nature, and describe some of the arts and nature programs being developed for the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, MD, where NICoE is located.
(NOTE: I am not currently a federal employee, and my views do not represent the views of the U.S. Government or the Department of Defense.)