Beyond Trauma Treatment: Mindfulness Instruction in the Training Environment to Prevent Depression, Lower Suicide Rates and Improve Resilience in the Military and Veteran Communities
Beyond Trauma Treatment:Mindfulness Instruction in the Training Environment to Prevent Depression, Lower Suicide Rates and Improve Resilience in the Military and Veteran Communities
The suicide numbers among active duty military personnel eclipsed the number of combat deaths in 2011. Before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the incidence of suicide in active duty US service members was consistently 25% lower than in the civilian population. While clinical health services exist for soldiers and Marines with existing mental health conditions like posttraumatic stress, they are not stemming the rising tide of service suicides. A new approach is required, one that speaks to the participatory, hardworking ethos of military culture. Social work and health promotion professionals working to prevent and treat mental health problems like depression and stress illness must understand the confluence of warrior culture and mental health issues in the veteran community. While the research literature does not yet address this confluence issue directly, it contains ample evidence to support the development of a culturally-informed mindfulness training protocol. This protocol would be best implemented in participatory fashion in the training environment, rather than in treatment settings. Veterans often reject patient identities, which creates a major barrier to care for mental health in this population. To combat suicide rates and promote military and veteran mental health, a new approach is required, one that embraces peer-education and speaks to a competitive individualist military culture. A research basis exists for mindfulnessbased training protocols grounded in resiliency theory, and focusing on pre-incident training rather than posttraumatic treatment can reduce stigma and save lives.