Many military veterans are returning home from war with mental health disorders ranging from depression to Posttraumatic Stress disorder, PTSD. While the VA services in the United States continue to struggle in the management of the mental health needs of our armed forces, some military personnel are looking to alternative healing options in an effort to support traditional medicine. In fact, on military bases across the country, men and women of uniform are enlisting in classes that provide instruction on t’ai chi as a way to alleviate stress and overcome mental health complications associated with military service.
For many vets, there is a strong sense of pride associated with service in the United States military but, at the same time, there is some degree of guilt and shame when returning from war. Upon the return, these same veterans often find it extremely difficult to integrate back into society and even into their own families, a complication that is only further compounded by depression, anxiety or PTSD. Using alternative healing options, these veterans are finding some relief from the feelings of guilt and shame and are finding support as they integrate their lives and tried to return to some degree of normalcy after participating in the war effort.
T’ai chi has been found to significantly reduce the physiological complications that often arise out of a mental health disorder. Because the secondary physical health complications in veterans can result in loss of job, family relationships and even further destroy self-esteem, finding ways to manage the secondary physical complications is important to the long term health and success of the primary treatment for depression and PTSD. Using a mind-body therapy program that incorporates t’ai chi may be just the answer that many returning war vets are looking for. In addition to controlling the physical complications, t’ai chi may also improve the cognitive function of the veteran who suffers from PTSD, depression or any other mental health complication – further promoting integration back to some normalcy of life.
If you live on a military base, or close to one, or if you are involved in a relationship with someone who is returning from war, you may want to look into the possibility of engaging in a t’ai chi class. If one is not available on the military base, consider starting a class or enlisting the services of someone who can coordinate such a service. By developing and offering a t’ai chi program to military personnel, the treatment and struggles associated with mental health treatment through the veteran affairs program may be minimized.
Sources: Journal of General Internal Medicine 2006;21:765-767. Traumatology 2000;6:152-169.