Like many people I know, I’ve long been in continual dialogue with The New York Times, my breakfast companion for over 60 years. Often I’ve nodded my head with appreciation when The Times reporters have brought back news from far away or previously ignored places, or its columnists have set out a position with which I agreed or one I was groping toward. Sometimes I’ve been stumped, particularly by the arcana of financial reporting. And on occasion—coverage of the run-up to the war in Iraq comes to mind—I’ve found myself shouting at the folded paper, even shaking my fist.
I’ve written for The Times occasionally, over more than 40 years, mostly for The Book Review but also for the Science section. The Times has also written about me and my work, mostly quite favorably. And I’ve also written letters. A couple have been published, and a number of them have been rejected. Or is “ignored” the better word?
Perhaps it’s vanity or the infirmity that comes with age—or maybe it’s just experience and conviction—that makes me feel I have something to say that others should attend to. In any case, I decided that I’m going to share with you what doesn’t appear in The Times to let opinions and words that may have seemed peripheral, tendentious, or perhaps too challenging to The Times staff, find a more welcoming home.
What I’m going to do is publish the letter I wrote here with a link to the original article and another to the letters The Times did choose to publish. I hope you’ll find this experiment interesting and that it will also inspire you to let your own voices be heard. In any case, please let me know what you think.
This first posting, below, concerns a column by Nicholas Kristof “A Veteran’s Death, The Nation’s Shame,” which I admired, which appeared on April 15th, together with the letters that were in the paper today, April 20th.
Preventing Military Suicide with Self-Care
James S. Gordon, M.D.
In his poignant piece on escalating post-deployment military suicides (NYT, April 15), Nicholas Kristof writes that “we refurbish tanks after time in combat, but don’t much help men and women exorcise the demons of war.”
There are in fact programs that do address these demons successfully and in ways that are stigma free and widely acceptable to the military and their families. Unfortunately they are not yet widely available.
These programs are based on the understanding that persistent stress and trauma may come to all who are in combat; and that practical self-care skills like meditation, guided imagery and movement can provide prospective on and address the agitation and aggression, the overwhelming memories, isolation, despair, and suicidal feelings—the symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—that may come in its wake.
At The Center for Mind-Body Medicine we have used this approach to reduce symptoms of war-related PTSD by 80%-in Kosovo and Gaza. The 300 US military and VA clinicians whom we have trained and the active duty, veterans, and family members with whom they work, appreciate the stress-reducing, mood enhancing practicality of our “mind-body” program. They embrace the opportunity to express themselves without fear of censure, or career foreclosure, in small groups whose support is reminiscent of combat units.
We are currently undertaking a Department of Defense funded randomized controlled trial of this method with war-traumatized US vets. Others are doing similar studies with similar approaches. Our preliminary results are promising, but research is slow and the time for many vets, like Ryan and Michael, is short. The Defense Department and the VA need to move ahead swiftly to offer this program and others to the hundreds of thousands who can make good, perhaps life-saving use of them.
James S. Gordon MD, a psychiatrist, is the author of Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven Stage Journey Out of Depression and the Founder, Director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, DC, and Dean of the College of Mind-Body Medicine with Saybrook University.
Despite a hectic schedule this January, I’m hoping to keep my blog up-to-date with the exciting events in my practice and at The Center for Mind-Body Medicine (CMBM).
A quick look at my schedule/to-do list:
I’ve just finished leading (along with Kathie Swift, MS, RD, LDN, my co-director) The Center for Mind-Body Medicine’s professional training program in nutrition, Food as Medicine, in San Francisco.
We’re also moving forward with our exciting work with the US Military training health and mental health professionals who are working with active-duty military as well as in the Veterans Administration to use mind-body techniques with vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with severe depression, PTSD, and traumatic brain injury. Over 100 of these professionals came to the first phase of our professional training program in mind-body medicine in Minnesota in October 2008. Here’s some data on the difference our training made to them. Most of them are returning for our advanced training–where we teach them how to lead the same kind of mind-body skills groups in which they participated in the first training—this weekend, from January 31-February 4th, once again in Minneapolis.
We’re also moving ahead with a research study funded by the Department of Defense on the use of our model with traumatized veterans and their families.
Last but not least, 30 of us–health professionals, policy makers, and just plain folks–gathered together in my home to develop a report to make recommendations for a National Health Plan to the Daschle/Obama Health and Human Services Administration. We’re continuing to explore ways for CMBM to be involved in creating a top-down support for truly universal and integrative health care for all Americans.
In other news, a recent op-ed of mine was published in the Clinical Psychiatry News, entitled “We Must Consider CAM for Depression.” You can read this succinct argument for wider use of integrative therapies, versus drug-centric treatment, here (you will have to create an account on this website to access it if you don’t already subscribe to CPN, though–sorry.) I was also published in the New York Times science section, writing about a friend and colleague of mine in Gaza going through the terrible bombings there. Read that one here.
Let me know your thoughts about what we’re doing, how we’re doing it, and how we’re bringing it out into the world! I’ll be in touch too.
NEWS RELEASE: "Landmark CMBM Randomized Controlled Trial Treating PTSD in Children Published in Journal of Clinical Psychiatry"
The Washington, DC based Center for Mind-Body Medicine (CMBM) announced today the publication of a landmark study on the use of its comprehensive, non-drug model to treat posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in war traumatized children. The study, “Treatment of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Post-War Kosovar Adolescents Using Mind-Body Skills Groups: A Randomized Controlled Trial,” which was published today online in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry is the first randomized controlled trial (RCT) ever of any intervention with war traumatized children. It is also the first RCT of a successful, comprehensive mind-body approach with any traumatized population.
The study demonstrates that the Center’s groundbreaking model can be used to produce highly significant and lasting changes in levels of stress, flashbacks, nightmares, and symptoms of withdrawal and numbing in highly traumatized children – those who lived in an area of Kosovo where in 1999 90% of the homes were burned and bombed and 20% of the children lost one or both parents.
The CMBM approach includes self-expression in words, drawings, and movement and mind-body techniques (including meditation, guided imagery, biofeedback and yoga) was offered to these children over 12 sessions in an educational, supportive small group setting. This intervention produced an approximate 80% reduction in PTSD in the treatment groups, much of which was maintained at 3 month follow-up. This is the same model that CMBM’s founder and director, James S. Gordon, MD, describes in detail in his new book, Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven Stage Journey Out of Depression.
“This RCT,” Dr. Gordon, the lead author, says, “is important because it provides scientific evidence for the efficacy of a model that has been taught to almost 3,000 health and mental health professionals and educators worldwide. We’ve used this small group model to give tens of thousands of children and adults practical tools that help them to feel better quickly, and we’ve taught them to use their intuition and imagination to solve problems that had seemed overwhelming. We help traumatized people around the world to draw on strengths they may have forgotten they have and we offer them a ‘safe place’ in which they can share their pain with others who have suffered as they have.”
“This model is educational, non-stigmatizing, and powerfully effective. It can be easily taught and can be used by people of all ages on their own,” Dr. Gordon explains. “It’s highly acceptable to populations which do not want to be given medication, those without access to a doctor or therapist, and those who are in psychotherapy.”
This model, which Dr. Gordon presents in a step-by-step self-help format in Unstuck, is currently being used by CMBM with war traumatized populations in Israel and Gaza as well as in post-Katrina southern Louisiana. It is widely used with anxious and depressed people and those with chronic illness in the US, and has already been incorporated as a stress reduction program for students in a dozen US medical schools.
The CMBM model is also of increasing interest to the US Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration. “The military,” Dr. Gordon says, “understands the breadth and depth of the psychological crisis (as many as 300,000 returning veterans are expected to have posttraumatic stress disorder or major depressive disorder, and another 320,000 will have been made vulnerable to these conditions by traumatic brain injury). The military’s leadership is committed to finding evidence-based approaches, like the one taught by The Center for Mind-Body Medicine, that can make a difference for the individual veteran and his/her family, an approach that can be taught to the large numbers of professionals and peer counselors who serve them.” More than 100 health and mental health professionals who work with the military are expected at the next CMBM training in mind-body medicine on October 25-29 in Minneapolis, and many more are expressing interest in learning and using the CMBM model.