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by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster

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Print | The Problem We Face - Vets Coming Home to Tragedy
Off the Grid - Jun 07 2011
by Melinda Pillsbury-Foster : t.melinda@portervillepost.com

Melinda Pillsbury-Foster On Jan. 19 an announcement from the U.S. Army, noting the sharp increase in suicide rates among National Guard and Reserve veterans. This was nothing new, it has been happening for years, but the announcement, flutter and drums will likely peter out into nothing yet again.

The title of the proposed bill was given in memory of yet another lost life. Called the Sergeant Coleman Bean Reserve Component Suicide Prevention Act for Sgt. Coieman Bean, a returning serviceman who committed suicide Sept. 6, 2008, after returning from his second tour in Iraq. He was 25 the day he took his own life.

Speaking on the need for the bill Sgt. Bean's father, Greg Bean, said, "The Army's recent release of the horrible increase in the number of suicides among National Guard and Reserve soldiers lends credence to what we've been saying all along - that we must do more to reach out to these veterans to provide them with the counseling and guidance they need to avoid reaching such desperate straits."

In January, Army Chief of Staff Peter Chiarelli issued a report indicating that in 2010, the Army's active-duty force experienced a tiny drop in the number of suicides, from 162 in 2009 to 156. At the same time a significant rise took place in the number of suicides among National Guard and Reserve units. The number nearly doubled from 80 deaths in 2009 to 145 in 2010.

At the same time, medical and psychological services for returning vets are not easy to come by.

Sgt. Bean was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, one of hundreds of thousands of vets struggling with either that condition or Traumatic Brain Injury, which causes similar problems.

An alarming percentage of America's military are returning home with from Iraq and Afghanistan with Traumatic Brain Injuries and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to a system of health which is sadly lacking.

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, because of increase in head injuries and the rise in mental health issues, substance abuse and suicides, there is a driving need to redouble efforts to protect veterans.

This is not what serving our country means. Watch this video. The veterans they are talking about are victims of PTSD and TBI.

SEE VIDEO ONLINE -- Homeless Veterens Returning Home from Combat being Homeless

Further Risks to Veterans

Additionally, Fred A. Baughman Jr., MD has also announced recently disturbing news. Results of his research into the "series" of veterans' deaths, acknowledged by the Surgeon General of the Army, cast questions on the present use of medications for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Baughman reports these drugs may account for veterans dying in their sleep.

Andrew White, Eric Layne, Nicholas Endicott and Derek Johnson, four West Virginia veterans, died in their sleep in early 2008 and their deaths were reported as suicide. Baughman's research suggests this was not the case. All were taking Seroquel (an antipsychotic) Paxil (an antidepressant) and Klonopin (a benzodiazepine). All were diagnosed with PTSD. All seemed "normal" when they went to bed. Over medication, and medication, which may not be called for, could be killing vets even after they return from war.

Mental health care accounted for almost 40 per cent of all days spent in hospitals by servicemen and women (one in seven troops are women) last year, the report said. Of those hospitalizations, 5 per cent lasted longer than 33 days. For most other conditions, fewer than 5 per cent of hospitalizations exceeded 12 days, the report said.

The number of returning troops and veterans who become statistics is horrifying. At home, and on active duty, tragically - a record 6,000 last year - commit suicide, a number which shocks all of us. National figures show, "veterans constitute about 20 per cent of the 30,000 to 32,000 US deaths each year from suicide" and "of an average of 18 veterans who commit suicide each day, about five received care through the VA healthcare system. More than 60 percent of those five had diagnosed mental health conditions." The DoD/VA has announced an outreach program and is now promoting a toll–free suicide hotline. - but the military knows full well they have had solutions to the problem which they withheld.

Along with suicide as a serious problem, returning active duty military are experiencing increasing levels of mental health problems, alcoholism and substance abuse. In an interview last year, Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Carlton Kent said “alcohol abuse is an indication of the stress, particularly since active military are being redeployed at increasing rates. Alcohol can tie into a lot of things, and we're just keeping a close eye on it," Kent said.

The rate of Marines, for instance, who screen positive for drug or alcohol problems, increased 12 percent from 2005 to 2008, according to available Marine Corps statistics.

Help offered to returning service people and vets is limited to drugs and some talk therapy, methods which, in the case of pharmaceuticals, cause more problems than they solve. But the military is well aware other treatments exist because they have been used at West Point, and elsewhere in the military, for over thirty years.

Solving the Problem

Never has our country more desperately needed help. Never have veterans more needed their fellow Americans. Together, we can return our communities to local control, ensure all are fed, and begin rebuilding America.

Neurofeedback and biofeedback, used in conjunction with talk therapy and community support, work, as does acupuncture.

The military has long been using neurofeedback - but not for those suffering with TBI or PTSD whose lives are on the line. Instead, this now maturing therapy, is routinely used to optimize brain function for the military's elite. Words lie, actions speak truth on priorities.

In 1973 the United States Military Academy at West Point initiated a program called the Alpha Training Center, which used neurofeedback for peak performance training for their athletes. Results from the Alpha Training Center were so dramatic, not only in athletic improvement but in overall academic and leadership performance, the center was opened to the entire corps of cadets and the academy's teaching staff and their families. The name was later changed to the Center for Enhanced Performance.

In September 2005, Dr. Louis Csoka, a retired Colonel and former head of the Center for Enhanced Performance at the Military Academy, announced that the Pentagon had approved and funded expansion of these same centers to three Army bases for 2006. This expansion, using Neurofeedback Peak Performance, was to be used to optimize performance for officers prior to deployment to the Persian Gulf. The program was expanded to ten more bases in 2007.

Developments in this technology, paralleling and surpassing what is available to the military, has kept up with the tremendous growth in this technology.

While the VA has estimated that the total cost of long term care and treatment for veterans, over a 30-year period, will be between one and two trillion dollars for some reason they are unwilling to invest minor amounts of funds The savings for the VA are incalculable, but certainly will be in the tens of billions. This dramatic cost savings is due largely to the decreased need for expensive convalescent facilities, and a means to reduce the drain on limited VA resources for ongoing treatment for hundreds of thousands of veterans from the Persian Gulf wars and earlier.

Vets are dying, their families shattered. Veterans from the last 30 years can benefit from this technology. It is up to us to make it available.

The most advanced system for the treatment of both TBI and PTSD is NeurOptimal, a technique now automated and available around the world through their center in Canada. A unit, which can be used to treat dozens or hundreds of sufferers over the period of a year costs around $10,000. Training is available at low cost, along with support. The technology so user friendly that veterans groups, churches and other community groups can now provide it for their communities, outside the VA system.

Here is where we, in our own communities, can help. Two organizations have signed on to help organize community efforts across the country, Iraqi Vets Against the War and Committees of Safety. Together with churches and other community groups tens of thousands of vets can be saved. Neurofeedback is the first step on a long path back to the vision for the real America.

This must come from our communities, from our hearts to these men and women who carry the war inside them. Together we can change this. The time is now.

Call or email to get involved. 805-699-5895 - themelinda@gmail.com

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