What is PTSD?
PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) is a mental health condition that a person develops after witnessing or experiencing a life-threatening situation, such as physical assault, car accident, natural disaster, terrorist attack, and military combat. When a person is threatened, it is only normal to feel scared, have trouble sleeping and even nightmares. But these are only temporary and last for a few weeks or months.
So what makes it diferent for a person suffering from PTSD? Well, it’s just like what we see in movies. Nightmares. Suicidal thoughts. Sudden flashbacks. Violent reactions or outbursts. Easily startled. Wants to be left alone. Doesn’t want to join enjoyable activities. Some relationships shattered.
In some cases, PTSD patients get better through medicines like anti-depressants. Some get better with “talk therapy,” especially when they’re treated early. Unfortunately, not all patients suffering from it seek help, while others don’t have an idea that they have the disorder.
PTSD in the Navy
Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman once said, “War is Hell.” Every single person who’s been in military combat would likely agree with this because after a battle, they feel dead-tired physically, spiritually and emotionally. Seeing their comrades get injured and even die takes a toll on them, which is why PTSD is quite common in the Navy.
What the Navy is doing?
The Navy has allotted $1 million to fund the research of determining the effects of surfing on PTSD patients, especially military personnel. The study is led by clinical psychologist Kristen Walter. The program involves service members surfing a day a week, which lasts for six weeks. A questionnaire is provided to participants and Walter analyzes the answers to determine how surfing is helping them.
This three-year study will have 118 participants in surfing groups and 43 participants in hiking groups.
How surfing helps
In The Washington Post, Helen Metzger, head of the health and wellness department at Naval Medical Center San Diego says, “Lots of times it becomes therapy under the guise of recreation. They talk about surfing and then it gets into things that are deeper than that, common experiences, common traumas.”
James LaMar II, a physician at the Naval Medical Center San Diego says, “For many of our patients, exercise is the best medicine, and exercise in the natural environment is even better. Surfing is a way back to a healthy life, the kind of life they had before they were traumatized.”
Researchers say, ‘Initial results suggest that surfing can lead to a decrease in insomnia and feelings of anxiety, and a decline in an overall negative view of life and other symptoms of depression.’
Retired Lt. Gen. John Toolan, a combat leader in Iraq and Afghanistan says, “It’s peaceful, but it’s also an adrenaline rush. Surfing is great therapy for young guys and for old guys like me, too.”
Jonathan Sherin, director of Los Angeles County’s mental health department says, “Surfing exposes individuals to the awe of nature. It’s good for a population that has turned inward from people and the outside world.”
Nick Horin, an Army staff sergeant and Iraq combat veteran says, “I had a lot of anger after Iraq; I wanted to hurt people. Surfing is the only way to take the edge off my anger without drinking or taking drugs.”
Nico Marcolongo, a retired Marine major says, “Overcoming a challenge gives them a sense of empowerment. They stop thinking of their injuries and start thinking about the waves.”
Whether it’s the military personnel or just ordinary people, getting help in battling PTSD is a great deal and I believe it’s a great action by the Navy because this research will not only benefit their personnel but others as well.
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