Last May, I attended the Navy's Combat Operational Stress confernece in San Diego. It was an amazing experience being thrust into the midst of military culture for three days! They have acronyms for everything, which felt like being in another land with a strange language!
The focus of the conference was to find solutions and support for service men and women dealing with mental health issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury, and their families. There was a huge emphasis on the need to destigmitize mental health issues and encourage those suffering to seek and get help. We heard from people who had been in in-treatment programs for PSTD and who were able to rejoin thier units after completion of treatment.
What was most striking for me was the recognition of "moral injury" and ackowledgement from the military leaders who spoke that what we are asking of our service people in foreign lands has the potential for deep emotional and spiritual consequences which must be addressed for the individual, their families, the health of the military, and for society as a whole.
The horses are so helpful in their ability to "just be" with the person and their pain, and to genly mirror behaviors that can then be looked at in a way that is non threatening.
We are now in our second year of Horses for Warriors and the feedback we've gotten shows us we're on the right track. We've gained a lot of experience, and we've learned from our participants what works for them, and what is important for them to address to best help them as they reintegrate into their families and communities.
I would like to express my appreciation for the participants willingness to share their lives with us a few hours each week and to co-create this program with us.
Conference presentation archives can be found here:
"In war, there are no unwounded soldiers." -Jose Narosky