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Monday, November 12, 2012

New Hope This Veterans Day: Operation Warrior Wellness

The Rand Corporation's study "Invisible Wounds of War" reveals a disturbing truth about the health of our military:

As recently as 2008, over 300,000
returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan
suffer from PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder) or major depression.

According to the Rand report, these "invisible wounds" take a high toll -
impacting veterans' quality of life,
hindering their performance at work,
straining their families,
and placing them at greater risk for violent
and self-destructive behaviors.

The economic cost of these disorders is equally great—reaching as high as $6 billion over two years.

The good news is that some helpful, new techniques are being used to help veterans. One shows particular promise for combating PTSD. Enter Operation Warrior Wellness -- a David Lynch Foundation-sponsored outreach to bring Transcendental Meditation to hundreds of thousands of veterans, military personnel and their families.

Dr. Norman Rosenthal is a member of the faculty at Georgetown University School of Medicine and 20-year senior researcher at the National Institutes of Mental Health who pioneered the study and treatment of “seasonal affective disorder.”

Rosenthal states, "Of the 1.64 million U.S. military personnel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2001 and 2008, one in seven met the criteria for PTSD."

“Half of these veterans had never sought any kind of help for their symptoms, probably because of the stigma of being labeled with a psychiatric disorder,” says Dr. Rosenthal. “Of those who sought help, half received inadequate treatment.”

(Mario Orsatti, “Meditation Promoted for Soldiers Suffering From PTSD," CNN, June 14 201)

Dr. Rosenthal says that twice-daily TM practice can be an effective low-cost, low-risk alternative to strong medications often prescribed by government doctors.

In fact, more than 350 studies have been published showing positive effects of transcendental meditation, including its ability to lower blood pressure, and help treat depression. Studies show transcendental meditation increases activity in the frontal lobe of the brain, which regulates emotions.

But Rosenthal's research -- which looked at seven patients -- is one of only two others to evaluate the affects of meditation on soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.

(Lara Salahi, "Meditation Heals Military Vets With PTSD," ABC News, June 6 2011)

Veterans of the Iraq/Afghanistan wars showed a 50 percent reduction in their symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after just eight weeks of practicing the stress-reducing Transcendental Meditation technique, according to Rosenthal's pilot study.

(N. Rosenthal, "Effects of Transcendental Meditation in Veterans with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Pilot Study," Military Medicine, Vol. 176, Number 6, June 2011)

Rosenthal hypothesizes that Transcendental Meditation helps people with PTSD because regular practice produces long-term changes in sympathetic nervous system activity, as evidenced by decreased blood pressure, and lower reactivity to stress.

 "Transcendental Meditation quiets down the nervous system, and slows down the 'fight-or-flight' response," he said. People with PTSD show overactive fight-or-flight responses, making them excellent candidates for Transcendental Meditation.

The Army’s Assistant Surgeon General, Brig. Gen. Richard Thomas, told CNN recently that he thinks there has been over-reliance on prescription drugs. “It reflects how we are in society. We do have a tendency to rely on prescription meds,” he said. And the Pentagon, according to Thomas, is receptive to non-drug treatments.

Transcendental Meditation

  • The Transcendental Meditation technique is an effortless technique practiced 10-20 minutes twice a day sitting comfortably with the eyes closed.
  • TM is not a religion or philosophy and involves no new beliefs or change in lifestyle.
  • Over 350 peer-reviewed research studies on the TM technique confirm a range of benefits for mind, body and behavior.
  • Several studies have compared the effects of different meditation practices and found that Transcendental Meditation provides deeper relaxation and is more effective at reducing anxiety, depression and hypertension than other forms of meditation and relaxation. In addition, no other meditation practice shows the widespread coherence throughout all areas of the brain that is seen with Transcendental Meditation.
  • The Transcendental Meditation technique is taught in the United States by a non-profit, educational organization.
  • More information can be obtained by calling 888-LEARN-TM or visiting,,, or the Devid Lynch Foundation, which offers courses for the Military through its Operation Warrior Wellness program.

(Condensed information for the TM Tecnique:

My Take

I believe TM shows great promise for our veterans. It strengthens the deeper aspects of a soldier’s personality—his or her emotional stability, contentment, strength-of-self, and self-directedness. TM has proven to be effective as a treatment for PTSD, one that will surely ease veterans' needs for prescription medications and potential dependency upon rx drugs.

And, in addition to reducing stress and stress-related illness, the TM technique improves emotional well-being -- including key reductions in anxiety and depression

Trait anxiety is the level of unease that a person feels regardless of situation or circumstance. As such, trait anxiety levels play an important role in a person's overall mood. A meta-analysis of 146 studies comparing the effectiveness of different mental and physical relaxation techniques on reducing trait anxiety showed that the Transcendental Meditation technique was twice as effective by a statistically significant margin. Interestingly, the second most effective modality was placebo.

(click to enlarge)

TM increases the spiritual health of those who practice it regularly.

This meta-analysis of all available research (42 independent study results) indicates that practice of the Transcendental Meditation technique increased self-actualization by approximately three times as much as procedures of contemplation, concentration, or other techniques.

(click to enlarge)

Operation Warrior Wellness Home:

Food For Thought From a Veteran

Scott Lee is an Army veteran and blogger who writes about veteran’s issues and PTSD. He was a Mechanized Infantry driver on point for the 3rd brigade of the 1st Armored Division in the First Gulf War.

Recently as a freelance writer he joined the staff of Heroes Fallen Studios, Inc. interviewing Korean War veterans for a graphic novel project commissioned by the Department of Defense.

Lee says:

"There is disconnection between everything human and what has to be done in combat. Imagine being in an unimaginable situation and having to do the unthinkable....

"Imagine knowing something about yourself more than you know anything, and at the same time knowing how unreal it is. This part of you has such a hold on you, that you cannot for the life of yourself feel its grasp until it is too late, then it has you and you are no longer yourself. Imagine a watery consciousness slipping away and thinking who was that? And, you already know the answer, as it dissipates like smoke on the wind. In that moment of realization comes the instantaneous realization of your being, slipping away."

Scott Lee's Blog:
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