United States President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order this week that is titled: “National Initiative to Empower Veterans and End Veterans Suicide.” The Department of Veterans Affairs will have a part in a task force that will help reduce suicide rates among veterans through a public, holistic health approach.
The executive order will improve the quality of life for veterans, many of which have turned to suicide after not being able to assimilate back into society.
The task force has been given 365 calendar days to:
- Create a roadmap of strategies to lower the risk of suicide among veterans
- Design grants for local communities
- Create a national strategy to improve the field of veteran suicide prevention
But while the government is working towards ways to prevent suicide, many veterans are still struggling with PTSD, shame and suicidal ideation.
The Journal of Affective Disorders claims that shame is a key factor that is leading to PTSD among veterans and suicidal thoughts. Statistically, 14% of veterans claim that they have suicidal thoughts, and around 20 veterans commit suicide every day.
Depression impacts 300 million people worldwide, and a lot of veterans are dealing with PTSD, depression and anxiety with medical marijuana. The first study on cannabis for PTSD in veterans started last year, and it is an FDA-approved study.
The study was funded with $2.15 million in grants from the University of Colorado, and it is the first study in the world that is conducted in a controlled clinical trial that will evaluate medical cannabis as a treatment for PTSD.
Sue Sisley, MD spent seven years trying to get the clinical study approved by the government, and she finally has approval to enter into a phase 2 study that includes 60 patients.
While the study is still being conducted, there are other methods that veterans are using to be able to better deal with the shame and suicidal thoughts that they’re having. These methods include:
- Mindfulness meditation, which has been shown in both 8-week and 16-week programs to be able to increase self-compassion and reduce the depressive symptoms that come along with PTSD.
- Physical activity, which has been able to help some veterans cope with PTSD. Running is a common activity that many veterans engage in to be able to overcome PTSD, but surfing, lifting weights and any physical activity can help.
- Aromatherapy has been studied for its calming effect, and a lot of veterans are using aromatherapy along with other methods to be able to reduce anxiety and also keep their PTSD under control.
Pets, or service dogs, have been shown to greatly reduce PTSD. One study found that in just one week, these specially trained animals were able to improve a person’s PTSD symptoms by 82%. These dogs have been trained to be able to catch the attention of their owners, and this means waking their owners up when they’re in the middle of a nightmare or trying to get the owner’s attention when they’re restless.
These animals can often sense the chemical changes in their owners’ bodies, reacting to calm their owner down before anxiety or depression sets in.