Returning Soldiers Ignite Mental Health Crisis – Bach Flower Has a Remedy for That
Military bases and the civilian health care system are bracing themselves for a surge in demand for mental health care resources.
Crunch is expected as President-elect Barack Obama is committed to pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq within 16 months (Reuters).
According to a report from a Congressional hearing on mental health problems confronting soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, about 20% of the 1.5 million soldiers deployed to those war fronts will return from battle suffering from mental health problems.
The reports project that about 20% or 300,000 (the size of a large city) will return suffering from clinical anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, or post-traumatic stress disorder. A more recent survey found that in fact half of the National Guard troops returning from battle report mental health problems.
These illnesses not only affect the returning soldiers, but they have a cascading effect on the families including the approximately 700,000 children in the United States with at least one parent returning from battle. The expected hundreds of thousands of cases will overflow from the VA and the Department of Defense into and burden the civilian health care system. Bettina Rasmussen, CEO of BachFlower.com says that Bach Flower has a remedy for that.
Ms. Rasmussen (BFRP) is a Bach Centre licensed practitioner and an author on natural remedies. She recently sent a letter to the Department of Defense asking them to explore the cost-effective benefits of all-natural remedies for reducing the symptoms associated with PTSD as part of the recovery regime.
The first wave of 15,000 returning soldiers landed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky; and military health officials at the Department of Defense are bracing for the surge in mental health cases wondering if there are sufficient resources to handle it. The next large wave is expected to arrive in February. Col. Richard Thomas, the Fort Campbell director of health services, has roughly doubled his staff of psychologists and behavioral specialists and is searching for more.
A report by the Army’s Mental Health Advisory Team released in 2007 found that 28 percent of soldiers who had been in high-intensity combat were experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder or acute stress.
It also found that the percentage of soldiers with severe stress, emotional, alcohol, or family problems had risen more than 85 percent since the invasion of Iraq five years ago.
General Peter Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the Army is monitoring how Fort Campbell handles their caseload in order to develop a plan on how other bases around the nation will handle the surge in PTSD cases.
Not all will be rosy when the soldiers come home. Soldiers are faced with adjustment to new realities, some of them quite unpleasant. Many are greeted by marital problems, financial difficulties, disintegrating relationships, and family unity.
According to Fort Campbell military health officials, more than 3,000 of the initial 15,000 troops returning home will experience headaches, sleep disorders, irritability, memory loss, bouts of violence, a sense of hopelessness, relationship strains, or other symptoms linked to stress disorder.
The base officials say that about 85 percent of those soldiers with stress disorder symptoms will recover with the help of treatment or medication, but the other 15 percent will require more intensive help.
A year later has not seen any improvements. According to an Army, the study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine in July of 2007, one in 8 soldiers returning from war suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Symptoms of PTSD include having flashbacks, nightmares, feeling detached, irritable, resorting to violence, and having trouble concentrating or sleeping.
Some veterans suffering from stress are finding their own solution, suicide
Over 120 vets are committing suicide every week, a rate double the general population.
In the war theater, suicide inching up to 1/3 of all deaths
Meanwhile, in the war zone, over 2000 active soldiers have taken their own life this year a number that has been increasing steadily; the highest in 25 years. The number in 2002 was 500. In an article published in the U.S. Army.mil News, it states that in the early part of 2007 suicide was the third largest cause of death of active soldiers accounting for almost 30%.
One age group among active soldiers stands out, the 20 to 24-year-olds; their rate of suicide is four times that of the general population. In those cases reported in 2007 about 70% of suicides were related to relationship problems back home. In today’s military 2/3 of the soldiers are married.
Coming home involves letting go of the battlefield adaptation and reintegration into civilian life. Couples and families must reset their expectations and renegotiate their roles. Open communication is very important at this stage. Returning soldiers decompressing from combat stress are often irritable, guarded, and want to be alone. Attempts are claiming old roles and hierarchy of authority may result in a relationship or marital arguments.
Adding to the stress, at the end of duty, the soldier and his family may be moved to a new station upon returning from deployment. Back-to-back deployments can be stressful for the whole family. Some soldiers may turn to alcohol or drugs to numb the emotional pain they experience but chose cover-up.
There is mounting evidence that the Army is not prepared for the return of soldiers with mental health issues. A National Public Radio (NPR) investigative report exposed how supervisors at Fort Carson, Colorado were punishing soldiers who returned from war with serious mental health problems. The soldiers were prevented from getting needed attention. NPR spoke with a half-dozen sergeants who expressed contempt for soldiers with PTSD. They said such soldiers were “weak,” called them “s—-bags,” and said they didn’t belong in the Army. The story sparked a Senate investigation.
Early this year, commanders at Fort Carson responded by launching a program requiring every leader, from sergeants up to generals, to attend a training course on how to spot and help soldiers who potentially have post-traumatic stress disorder. More than 2,200 leaders have taken the course so far.
To see the impact the PTSD training had, NPR made a follow-up visit to Fort Carson’s base commander Gen. Robert Mixon. Gen. Mixon stated that he would take disciplinary action against leaders who fail to follow the training guidelines. News of any disciplinary actions was denied by Gen. Mixon’s right-hand man, who stated that there had been a few verbal warnings and no more. Down the command line, Command Sgt. Maj. Terrance McWilliams insisted that he will punish soldiers who “misbehave” with PTSD symptoms even if the Army doctors have diagnosed the soldiers with PTSD. PTSD remains controversial at Fort Carson and perhaps is simply indicative of what our returning soldiers can expect no matter where their tour of duty ends.
The United States Department of Veteran Affairs has set up the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders. Soldiers and their families are advised to check the website as well as websites from a number of other government and civilian organizations dedicated to giving our veterans the help they need. The families should be prepared to apply public relations and political pressure as needed, as resources for the expected volume of cases is not likely going to be sufficient.
Prolonged emotional imbalances whether they are those associated with PTSD or a range of others symptoms such as fear, panic, jealousy, separation anxiety, clinical anxiety, excessive worry, uncontrollable anger; and so on, depress the immune system and lead to a decrease or delayed healing.
It is evident that the fundamental philosophy behind keeping a standing army ready full-time and in full force is incompatible with recognizing that emotional and psychological imbalances can render some soldiers temporarily incapable.
Healthcare professionals, social workers, and caring individuals look at the problem from a different perspective. Bach Flower Remedies practitioners, such as Bettina Rasmussen (BFRP), are among those who understand the impact of emotions on our health and quality of life.
Ms. Rasmussen points out that a body of research, especially over the last 20 years, has produced innumerable tomes relative to the interrelationship between psychology, sociology, and the immune and endocrine systems. For example, “Human Psychoneuroimmunology”, “Understanding the Interaction between Psychosocial Stress and Immune-related Deceases”, “The Effects of Acute Psychological Stress on Circulating Inflammatory Factors in Humans” and a host of others.
The University of Illinois hosts the Integrative Immunology and Behavior Program which spearheads research in immunohistology.
75 years ahead of this time, Dr. Edward Bach discovered a series of flower herbal remedies that have since been used and recommended around the world. The Bach Flower Remedies treat emotional states which Dr. Bach believed, and volumes of studies support, greatly impact our health, healing, and quality of life.
Dr. Edward Bach studied medicine at the University College Hospital, London, and was a House Surgeon there. Dr. Bach was a bacteriologist and later a pathologist. He worked for a number of years on vaccines and a set of homeopathic nosodes still known as the seven Bach nosodes.
Dr. Bach won international acclaim for his work on vaccines at the University College Hospital during the First World War when his responsibilities, ironically enough, included a huge war casualty ward. 40 million Europeans died in WWI between 1914 and 1918 and millions more were injured physically and emotionally.
Dr. Bach earned further distinctions by developing experimental vaccines that saved thousands of lives during the Influenza epidemic of 1918, caused by a devastating virus that killed 18 million Europeans.
Soon following WWI and the Influenza Epidemic of 1918 he read the germinal work of the German, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, “The Organon of the Healing Art”. Dr. Hahnemann is the founder of homeopathy. It was Dr. Hahnemann’s influence that caused him to rethink the treatment of the disease. From that time forward he would treat the person, including his emotions, and not just the decease.
So, despite the success of his work with orthodox medicine Dr. Bach felt dissatisfied with the way doctors were expected to concentrate on diseases and ignore the people who were suffering from them. In 1930 he gave up his lucrative Harley Street practice and left London, determined to devote the rest of his life to the new system of medicine that he was sure could be found in nature.
Dr. Bach discovered 38 individual Bach Flower Remedies and made one blend that he called Rescue Remedy. The Remedies are all-natural, non-habit forming, and have no known side effects or counter-indications in 75 years of use. The remedies, based on a homeopathy heritage, are gentle and safe for children and expectant mothers. Each remedy, which comes in drops, spray, cream, and pastilles run between $10-15 each. In the case of drops, only 2 to 4 drops will do and a bottle will last a long time. Cost is not a barrier to its use.
A good place to start for PTSD is the Rescue Remedy. Rescue Remedy contains five of the Bach Flower Remedies which are especially beneficial when we find ourselves in traumatic and stressful situations. The Remedies quickly get us back to our normal emotional balance so that we can calmly deal with the situation at hand.
The five remedies in Rescue Remedy are:
– Impatiens: For those who act and think quickly, and have no patience for what they see as the slowness of others. For those who often prefer to work alone. It gives empathy and understanding and enables us to be patient with others. It is fast-acting in alleviating an impatient attitude and lowering stress.
– Star of Bethlehem: For trauma and shock, whether experienced recently or in the past. Gives the ability to recover from traumas and to integrate their adaptation into the present life.
– Cherry Plum: For those who fear losing control of their thoughts and actions and doing things they know are bad for them or which they consider wrong. Gives trust in one’s spontaneous wisdom and the courage to follow one’s path.
– Rock Rose: For situations in which one experiences panic or terror.
– Clematis: For those who find their lives unhappy and withdraw into fantasy worlds. They are ungrounded and indifferent to the details of everyday life. Helps to establish a bridge between the physical world and the world of ideas; may foster great creativity. Is also used to bring clarity and alertness to the present moment.
The Remedies are easy for anyone to understand, obtain and use. Optionally, there are licensed Bach Flower practitioners (BFRP) who will be able to help find the correct combination for your emotional situation. More information can be found at www.BachFlower.com
“Men find it hard to talk about their health concerns, and resist seeking help”, says Ms. Rasmussen. It is for this reason that she recommends the works of Stefan Ball, Bach Flower for Men. “This book can make the first step to recovery easier – seeking help”.
Soldiers suffering from PTSD often complain about not being able to sleep. The bulk of sleep disorder studies discourage dependency on sleep pharmaceutical medications; they make matters worse. Sleeping medications, including sedative/hypnotic medications, like Ambien, are recommended for short-term use, but lots of people take them frequently and become dependent upon them to fall asleep. Sleep-inducing medications, especially when taken over long periods of time, stay in the bloodstream, giving a hangover the next day and beyond. Studies charge pharmaceutical sleep medication with impairing memory and performance on the job and at home.
All medications interact with other medications to one degree or another, sometimes with harmful effects. Finding a natural product or modifying our patterns of behavior to get a good night’s sleep is a good first approach with little or no harmful consequences.
There are questions about the effectiveness of sleeping pills. A study by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School found that a change in sleep habits and attitudes was more effective in treating chronic insomnia, over the short- and long-term than sleeping pills (specifically Ambien). Ambien is the most prescribed pharmaceutical product to induce sleep, chemically. Earlier this month, it was reported that some Ambien users are susceptible to amnesia and walking in their sleep. Some even ate in the middle of the night without realizing it.
If the soldier or family member has trouble sleeping, the all-natural Rescue Sleep blend would be the recommended remedy. It contains the same five remedies as Rescue Remedy plus White Chestnut, which is effective against a restless minds and unwanted thoughts. More information can be found at www.BachRescueSleep.com
Rescue Remedy clinical trial
On July 2, 2007, the Medical News Today reported the results of a study on the effectiveness of the best-selling Bach Flower preparation called Rescue Remedy. The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Miami School of Nursing. Using a sample of 111 individuals aged 18 to 49, the study was a double-blind clinical trial comparing a standard dose of Rescue Remedy against a placebo of identical appearance. A standard test to evaluate anxiety was administered before and after the dosage.
The result was that Rescue Remedy was found to be “an effective over-the-counter stress reliever with a comparable effect to traditional pharmaceutical drugs yet without any of the known adverse side effects, including addiction.”
The Bach Flower remedies can be purchased online from BachFlower.com or its retailer DirectlyFromNature.com. BachFlower.com carries the world’s largest selection of Bach Flower books, information, charts, tutorials, and a world directory of Bach Flower practitioners.
Learn more about the Bach Flower Remedies at www.BachFlower.com
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© 2008 BachFlower.com “Bach Flower has a Remedy for that” © BachFlower.com. Bach and Rescue Remedy are trademarks of Bach Flower Remedies Limited.