Contributor: Helios Warriors, Marsha Bennett, Executive Director & Gulf War Veteran
The statistics concerning veterans with mental health issues are startling. According to the National Center for PTSD, between 11 and 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress and nearly 20% of soldiers involved in these wars have experienced a traumatic brain injury. These issues are certainly not new to those who have served in the armed forces. Veterans from every conflict throughout history have suffered from symptoms ranging from sleep disturbances, apathy, exaggerated startle response and personality changes to extreme anger and suicidal thoughts. An alarming 22 veterans commit suicide every day, according to a 2011 VA statistic.
The effects of PTS and TBI are debilitating, making it difficult for veterans to have positive relationships with friends and family and, in many cases, veterans are unable to work. Those who have sacrificed so much in service to our country are often left homeless and without support networks.
That’s where organizations like Helios Warriors come in. Helios Warriors is an Asheville, NC based nonprofit that seeks to help veterans heal through the use of holistic therapies like acupuncture, massage, chiropractic, Reiki, craniosacral therapy, counseling and more.
Evidence is emerging that holistic therapies can be very effective in the treatment of mental health issues including PTS and TBI. Holistic therapies, by definition, are forms of healing that consider the whole person—body, mind, spirit and emotions—as opposed to current medical models that treat symptoms and individual systems of the body. Holistic therapies seek to determine the underlying cause of conditions, understanding that people have innate healing powers that can be activated with attention and awareness of the interplay of physical, emotional and spiritual faculties within themselves.
Helios Warriors’ work in Asheville is supported by a grant from DVNF that will enable the continuation of their work to heal veterans through the use of holistic therapies. Clients pay what they can afford, based on a sliding scale, and no veteran is ever turned away based on their inability to pay.
According to Brenda, a veteran client, holistic therapies at Helios Warriors “helped me gain perspective and line me up so energy could get out, and it helped me feel whole again. I immediately felt like I could think more clearly, and all my ideas of hopelessness and feelings of despair were immediately gone. I felt a huge amount of relief and have been really stable since then.” In story after story, veterans acknowledge how holistic therapies have allowed them to reduce their dependence on medications and increase their quality of life. This work continues, thanks to supporters like DVNF and their donors.
Many communities have holistic therapists who offer sliding scale services. If you know someone who is suffering from mental health issues related to their military service, consider holistic therapies that seek to treat the whole person, rather than simply treating symptoms.
Veterans who are having suicidal thoughts should contact the Veterans Crisis Line (800-273-8255, Press 1).