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Posts Tagged ‘PTSD’

Enduring Freedom

Most service members think about spiritual matters during deployment.  We take stock of our lives while in the face of death and danger.  This time of examination and spiritual questioning is important.  Rarely do we stay the same afterward.  This time of spiritual searching will frequently send service members in one of two distinct directions.  Many gain a stronger relationship with God.  Others may question their beliefs and feel spiritually empty.

For those who may be in the later category, I want you to know that it is normal to ask questions about our faith.  Spiritual matters are important downrange, when we have returned home, and as we reintegrate into our communities.  Everyone is impacted differently by war.  We have endured different levels of strife and conflict. We also have different levels of spiritual understanding when we enter the combat zone and when we leave.  Regardless of your location or when you served, your faith will be different when you come home.

No matter if your faith has grown or shrunk, it is important that you continue moving forward in your Christian walk.  Do not stand still in your faith.  1 Timothy 4:7b-8 shares, “rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”

Every believer, civilian or veteran, needs a spiritual fitness routine.  Like physical fitness, spiritual fitness must be practiced.  While it is different from going to the gym and lifting weights, the concept is the same.   We need to exercise our spiritual muscles in order to grow our faith.

Spiritual fitness can take place in many different ways:

  • prayer
  • reading scripture
  • attending worship services
  • seeking spiritual counsel
  • fellowship
  • meditation
  • journaling

This is a small, but important sample of spiritual exercises that you can try.  Feel free to try one and gradually combine others to your list.   You can also participate in these activities with your family, friends, and a Christian community of believers, adding a greater dimension to your spiritual fitness by increasing your connection to other people.

Spiritual fitness is important to everyone.  It draws us closer to God, forms us in the image of Jesus Christ, and allows us to strengthen our faith.  Your spiritual fitness also affects your ability to deal with stress and times of crisis.  Multiple studies determined that veterans who have an active spiritual practice report fewer and less severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.  Those who struggled with their faith or felt alienated from God had more severe PTSD symptoms.

Spiritual fitness also reduces anxiety, loneliness, and depression.  Studies have also documented how people with a weekly pattern of attending worship services live longer, are healthier, and recover from illness more quickly.

Veterans and service members can take comfort in the transforming power of God. No matter where or when you were deployed, God still cares about you.  No matter what you saw downrange or what you did, you can have a redeemed life.

When life seems full of despair, the Lord shares purpose, meaning, forgiveness, and acceptance.  Continue to move forward in your faith.  Train yourself to be the godly and righteous person you were called to become.

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NPGAW

March 3-9 marks National Problem Gambling Week.

The goal of this campaign is to educate the general public, and health care professionals about the warning signs of problem gambling and raise awareness about the help that is available both locally and nationally.

Research finds that up to 3% of the US population will have a gambling problem. That equals 9 million Americans, yet only a small fraction seek out services, like treatment and self-help recovery programs.

Those with a gambling addiction are tough to identify and uniquely different from substance abuse addictions.  Gambling is connected to a fantasy.  Gamblers can also appear fully functional until they hit rock bottom.  There is no way to measure gambling in a scientific manner like urine, blood, or hair samples.  Gamblers tend to act alone or in secret from loved ones.  Another difficulty in finding those with the problem is that there is no saturation point for gambling.  Even professional can miss the signs until the final stages of loss and destruction.

These are critical discussion points because gamblers quickly turn to suicide.  If a problem gambler is isolating himself or herself, hiding financial losses, and lying about the issue, then family and friends may not even be aware of the problem until the person attempts suicide.

These tragic events are growing in our military communities and with veterans who have returned from war.  Recent studies show that 1 in 10 veterans have a problem or pathological gambling addiction.  And when you look at military suicide rates, financial problems are the second leading cause of suicide.  Veterans are another unique population because of service-related issues like combat stress reactions, post traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety.  Gambling may not be the entire cause for suicide in the military, but it is one piece of the puzzle that we can address as a caring community.

No matter where you live, there is hope for those who suffer from gambling problems.  Encourage people to reach out for help.  Resources are available in every community.  Find a local or national resource to help problem gamblers.  Counselors are only one call or click away from saving a life.

You can find counselors and additional resources at:

National Problem Gambling Helpline 1-800-522-4700

Gamblers Anonymous www.gamblersanonymous.org

Military One Source 1-800-342-9647

Focus on the Family / faith-based counseling:  1-855-771-HELP (4357).

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Chaplains are pretty busy during Annual Training season in the National Guard.  Tuesday I gave another suicide prevention class.  It’s a requirement that Soldiers get the presentation at least once a year.  The training focuses on the magnitude of the problem, how common issues can drive anyone to the point of despair, and that everyone can watch out for your battle buddy.

While many try to pin the Army suicide issue on multiple deployments, the majority of issues that drive people to suicide are common issues:  failed relationships, financial difficulty, and legal woes.  These are typical factors that we see in the civilian population, at schools, in factories, and even in the church.  PTSD is a factor in military suicide, but it is not the top issue that Time magazine or other media outlets want you to believe.

The fundamental issue to remember is that everyone can save a life.  You probably survived a breakup, be it in high school, college, or at work.  You probably understand what it is like to bounce a check or have a tough time making your paycheck last the entire month.  We are all in the same boat.  We all have the life experience necessary to help people at risk of suicide.

Remember and apply ACE: Ask, Care, Escort.

If you believe that someone is at risk of suicide, ask him/her about the problem.  Find out what is going on in the person’s life.  Directly ask if he/she is thinking about suicide.  Care by listening to the issue.  Find out what is causing the pain and suffering.  Why is the Soldier upset?  Finally, escort the Soldier to a resource.  That can be a chaplain, a medic, a counselor, an NCO, a friend, or a family member.

Don’t leave the person alone.  Make sure that he or she gets help.  It is okay to call a suicide hotline or wake up a supervisor, just don’t ignore the warning signs.

You don’t have to be a mental health counselor to apply ACE.  You don’t have to be an expert.  But you can practice these basic steps in suicide first aid.  Do your part to reduce suicide and help your friends.

If you need immediate assistance these suicide hot lines are always available:

Military One Source – 1.877.995.5247 or National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1.800.273.TALK (8255).

 

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The VA recently announced that it will hire an additional 1,600 nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers to bolster its staff of mental health providers.  VA officials said they plan to launch an immediate recruiting and hiring effort in its 21 service networks.

Many veterans report difficulty in getting appointments and receiving timely access to the care they need.

I believe that this announcement will make a positive impact on veterans and military families.  Hiring additional staff will go a long way to improve the care and service veterans receive.  It will also increase the trust and confidence that veterans place in VA medical centers.  One bad experience can easily convince a veteran that quality care is beyond their reach, or worse yet, no one cares.  I know service members who say, “if the VA isn’t willing to help me, then why should I even try to get help in the first place.”

Today’s story should be seen as encouragement.  Encouragement that veterans matter.  Encouragement that seeking help will not be ignored.

 

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The headline was small and muted this month, but the Army reported 278 suicides for 2011.  That figure represents Active Duty, Guard, and Reserve components.  While that number may not immediately seem like good news, it is nearly a ten percent drop from 2010.  It is also the first time that number has declined in four years.

I understand why no one wanted to herald the news, but this should still be seen as a victory.  We are making an incredible difference in the lives of people.  Suicide prevention training has taken hold in the force and continues to grow.  Soldiers and families understand that it is okay to talk about deployment issues and concerns.  Stigma and fear continues to decline.  Counselors, medics, chaplains and battle buddies at every level are teaching service members how to address suicidal thoughts.  That being said, there is still more work to be done.

Broken relationships are still the number one reason that Soldiers commit suicide.  It is important that first line leaders sit down with service members at the first hint of marital conflict.  Make time to listen and discover how your Soldiers are dealing with the hardships of life.

Practice ACE:  Ask, Care, Escort.  Ask people how they are doing.  Care about their situation through listening.  Escort people to a community resource when they need help.

Military One Source is available 24/7.  You can call and immediately speak with a counselor or ask for a referral.  The operator will give you several local counseling options and assist you in making an appointment.  Service members can receive 12 free counseling sessions each year.  Military One Source can be reached at 1.800.342.9647.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available to help those contemplating suicide.  You can call 1.800.273.TALK (8255) and be connected to a counselor.  Once you are on the lifeline, a person can decide to speak with a veteran or a civilian.

Army suicides are starting to decline.  Our efforts are bearing fruit in multiple arenas.  One year will may not establish a pattern, but it is certainly a step in the right direction.

 

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I want to share some veteran resources that continue to strengthen both soldier and spouse.

The Combat Trauma Healing Manual is a great book for individual reading or a small group setting.  The author, Chris Adsit, brings out Christ-centered solutions for combat trauma.  He is practical and telling in his approach. While many authors may simplify PTSD solutions to coping strategies, changing behaviors, and cognitive therapy, Adsit shares that more is available.  God wants to bring about restoration, stability, and healing.

I feel that this book is written with an attitude of gratefulness for veterans and a desire to bring peace to military homes.  It gives an appropriate spiritual approach that veterans need to hear.

This is the companion book for military spouses.  It is written with the same amount of care and concern.  Each time that a warrior comes home, the time and type of reunion is different.  One constant is the spiritual comfort that God can provide to military families.

PTSD will complicate how couples reintegrate at home, but military spouses will find stories, suggestions, and learn how to deal with new situations.  The book is also wrapped with advice from the medical and counseling community that is extremely helpful.  The personal stories and recommendations make this book worthwhile for both veterans and spouses.

You can find both books and additional information at http://www.militaryministry.org/.

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