Affordable, accessible, and effective in treating PTSD
Veterans who are tired of taking medications or using other conventional healthcare treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have another option: transcendental meditation (TM). A new organization, Operation Warrior Shield (OWS), is working to make the practice accessible to all military personnel, both retired and active service—and to first responders around the country.
TM is an effortless, secular, extensively researched form of meditation that is practiced twice a day for 20 minutes, sitting comfortably with the eyes closed. TM relieves symptoms of traumatic stress and depression, and can improve a practitioner’s emotional wellbeing, enabling trauma survivors to experience deep rest and move forward in life.
A new organization spreads the use of transcendental meditation
Edward Schloeman is a retired Chief Master Sergeant (E-9) from the New York Air National Guard (1973-1995) and a Marine Vietnam Disabled Veteran (Sgt) who served from 1960 to 1966.
He’s also the president and chairman of OWS. He co-founded the organization in early 2016 with Army Air Corps veteran Jerry Yellen, who served in World War II. Both men have experienced the benefits of TM firsthand and are passionate about making it accessible to all.
Ed previously worked as co-founder of the David Lynch Foundation’s Operation Warrior Wellness program for six years, during which time he saw how healing TM can be for veterans. Jerry has been practicing TM for more than 30 years.
Ed and Jerry believe so much in the power of TM for healing veterans with PTSD and other conditions, they founded OWS with the mission of providing comprehensive service programs for service members, veterans, first responders and their families, with a focus on employment; health and wellness; transition to new positions and circumstances; prevention of homelessness; peer engagement; and community-to-community resources.
Starting with sleep
Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of TM is its ability to help people fall asleep more easily and stay asleep longer. For many veterans and others with PTSD, flashbacks, vivid memories, and nightmares can make nighttime the worst time.
By using TM regularly, practitioners are able to develop more restorative sleep patterns. Ed has surveyed numerous veterans, and has heard many stories of success.
“One veteran we interviewed went from averaging just three hours of sleep each night, to averaging five to six hours,” says Ed. “That may not sound like a lot, but to someone who lives with PTSD, that difference is enormous—it can improve clarity, focus, and peace of mind.”
TM has also been shown to reduce the risk factors of other conditions associated with PTSD, including cardiovascular disease. It’s easy to see why it can be a powerful addition to the veteran’s toolbox.
Research supports claims of efficacy
For the uninitiated, it can be difficult to imagine that meditation could ease the symptoms associated with PTSD. But Ed says there is science to back up the efficacy of TM.
A study by Operation Warrior Wellness at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon, Georgia, showed that a majority of veterans who were provided with TM training saw a marked decrease in symptoms and were able to reduce their medication.
There are also over 350 peer-reviewed studies in existence examining the effects of TM, and the National Institutes of Health has funded research on TM’s effect on stress-related illness to the tune of $26 million. Interest in TM’s benefits is growing rapidly.
TM training: Cost vs. benefit
The cost to train someone in TM is around $1,000, says Ed—a small price to pay when you consider that the practice is for life, and can reduce or eliminate the need for medications.
Compare that to the average cost for the first year of treatment by the VA for a veteran with PTSD: $8,300. Multiply that by the number of men and women being served by the VA and the costs of treatment are more than $86 million each year. He says: “We have the opportunity to change that, to reduce those costs while increasing the benefit to our veterans.”
Getting TM to first responders and active duty servicemen and women
OWS works hard to give TM training to first responders across the U.S. “Police, fire, EMS, active duty, veterans—all of these men and women in uniform need training in TM,” says Ed. “Exposure to emotionally difficult things not only changes you mentally; it changes you physically, it changes the way your brain works, the way your brain processes information—the effects are as real as a physical injury, in terms of the long-term ramifications.”
“It makes sense to start providing TM training early on to those who serve, so they are better prepared for the stresses of war and service as first responders,” says Ed. “We have the chance to prepare them to face trauma. TM is like weightlifting for the brain; it helps practitioners learn to better handle stress, so they can react more effectively on the battlefield,” he explains. In that way, the use of TM early in a person’s service can actually help minimize PTSD in the first place.
Want to get involved?
It is clear TM has the power to help many veterans. Ed and Jerry are working hard to bring the practice to people across the country, and they need help. If you’re interested in learning more or supporting this effort, visit OperationWarriorShield.com.