Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Our Active Duty Military and Veterans' Mental Health and Wellness: PTSD

First and foremost I am not a veteran, and I FULLY SUPPORT the our active duty and veterans of my country, the United State of America.

Since I have been doing online mental health and wellness resources and support, I have received numerous inquiries from our active duty personnel and veterans. What I have learned by talking to them that they are actively working on themselves to find information and resources for their best mental health and wellness. I applaud their efforts, and personally, I LOVE THAT! They are finding novel ways to improve their health and they are starting online.

There are numerous active duty personnel and veteran groups that assist with dealing with mental health issues, which include Federal programs, some in the VA and outside the VA.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America is one of them.

There are other online groups, one dedicated to Female Veterans through the VA and NAMI.

In 2008, Sistah Mental Health and Wellness was a private group in active recruitment of diverse women. Many of our members were veterans. They still support Sistah Mental Health.

What I have learned about our men and women in combat is mostly what affects them after serving is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

It can be one of the leading causes to anxiety, panic, which can also lead to depression and/or substance abuse.

Our society, though changing, still has the stigma of mental illness and our troops are paying the price for that. Without going into the societal issues, if I could please transition with people's patience on what I think is going on neurologically as a Ph.D. in molecular genetics and a research scientist.

Research has shown that PTSD is caused when a traumatic and stressful event is encountered. Events could range from active combat, stressful job requirements, abuse, natural disasters: Earthquakes, Floods, Tornadoes and Hurricanes; and other events that overload the conscious mind to a tipping point.

This overloading of the conscious or "awake" brain can cause physical damage in the brain. If never addressed, it can lead to traumatic brain injury. But the perturbations in the brain are chiefly related to the molecules that control a variety of processes neurologically, such as RNA (ribonucleic acid), which affects one's perception on a traumatic event.

What happens is once the event is encountered, the "awake mind" has NO WAY of processing it logically, so it suppresses what was witnessed to process it later. Where the mind physically puts this event is into the subconscious -- the "sleeping mind". The "sleeping mind" is a different brain center. Our creativity come from there, our dreams come from there, our reflective thoughts which has nuances to understandings come from there, and our fears can come out of there. Moreover, the "sleeping mind" is far from being logical or rational, and many times our emotions are released from there. We can cause a perpetual state of nightmares where our fears of the trauma are exposed and the only way we can stop them is by staying awake, which can cause depression due to a lack of sleep; or substance abuse that has too many problems in and of itself.

Molecular biologically, some heart hormones sent to the brain go to these brain centers that are often tied in to our emotions. One such hormone is BNP or brain natureitic peptide. Of course there is NO linkage to PTSD here, but it is NOT inconceivable that other key second messengers sent to the brain from organs are not caused by traumatic events.

We are biologically WIRED to respond to trauma in this way as a process of evolution. If we were not wired this way, we would be vicious animals unable to control what makes up human, what makes us compassionate, caring, loving individuals.

On the flip side, if the logical "awake mind" attempts to process the event, the trauma can become addictive due to the endorphins it produces. The risk taking, sometimes unnecessary and illogical may be a result of different people able to manipulate their brains from the "awake mind" to the "sleeping mind".

What I professionally think to deal with these neurological paradoxes inclusive in a treatment plan is mindfulness meditation similar to that of the Japanese Samurai and martial arts. Deep transcendental meditation after trauma. Our society is new to this Eastern Medicine technique. Moreover, prayer can work when there is little political influence and the higher ideals of the faith are supported: The love, the compassion the goodwill, etc.

What I like about mindfulness is the "art of breathing" -- how to breath and releasing that breath, and inclusion of nature in the process -- listening to the rain, waves, birds, trees, etc and minimizing the machinations of "city life". Becoming respectful of the environment or good stewards to the environment.

We have to TRAIN like running a marathon or mountain climbing or any other feat; our "sleeping mind" to donate pieces of what happened to our "awake mind" to process and digest the trauma without discoloration. It takes a long time.

One of the easiest ways that is relatively free is "creativity" -- IN ANY FORM -- "art therapy" so to speak. Creative writing and artistry is the flip side of Sistah Mental Health and Wellness supports on Isle Sanctuary Creative Artists.

Isle Sanctuary Creative Artists is the creative outlet to help those who are dealing with mental health conditions to release their "sleeping mind" to their "awake mind" for their best healing. The name "Isle Sanctuary" was created based on the start of Sistah Mental Health and Wellness to lead everyone in a group of calm. The most calming place I knew was of my numerous trips to Hawaii and I wanted to share that culture and essence with everyone. I called it the Isle Sanctuary -- a peaceful oasis in the ocean, away from the torrential storm. I wanted those who came to Isle to find balance and unlock their creative minds to help them find healing. I thought that our active duty military personnel and veterans can use this process to achieve their best mental health and wellness. And I think it does for them, and what I found was, my fictional story that I wanted to tell based on my favorite movie, Star Wars and I could tell it using roleplaying on social media...

{new blog forthcoming}