This past week CNN reported on gala events in New York City and Washington, DC which drew celebrities, scientists, doctors, and huge crowds to promote the use of the Transcendental Meditation program as an antidote to the epidemic of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that is afflicting large numbers of military personnel coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan.Filmmaker David Lynch, designer Donna Karan, CNN anchor Candy Crowley, best-selling author and psychiatrist Norman Rosenthal, hip-hop founder Russell Simmons, and actor Ben Foster, all pledged support for “Operation Warrior Wellness”—an outreach to help relieve the suffering of hundreds of thousands of veterans through meditation.
PTSD is a widespread problem for veterans. According to Dr. Rosenthal, of the 1.64 million U.S. military personnel who served in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2001 and 2008, one in seven met the criteria for PTSD.
“Half of these veterans had never sought any kind of help for their symptoms, probably because of the stigma of being labeled with a psychiatric disorder,” says Dr. Rosenthal. “Of those who sought help, half received inadequate treatment.”Dr. Rosenthal is a member of the faculty at Georgetown University School of Medicine and 20-year senior researcher at the National Institutes of Mental Health who pioneered the study and treatment of “seasonal affective disorder.” Dr Rosenthal says that twice-daily TM practice can be an effective low-cost, low-risk alternative to strong medications often prescribed by government doctors.
The Army’s Assistant Surgeon General, Brig. Gen. Richard Thomas, told CNN recently that he thinks there has been over-reliance on prescription drugs. “It reflects how we are in society. We do have a tendency to rely on prescription meds,” he said. And the Pentagon, according to Thomas, is receptive to nondrug treatments.
Along with a team of researchers, Dr. Rosenthal recently completed research on the effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique on veterans in the Washington, DC area who were diagnosed with PTSD. Their findings have been published this month in the journal of Military Medicine. Their research found that TM helps veterans deal with common PTSD complaints of anxiety, depression, sleeplessness, and anger.
Dr. Rosenthal has also published case studies of veterans who experienced the benefits of TM practice in his new book, “Transcendence: Healing and Transformation through Transcendental Meditation” (Tarcher Penguin, June 2011).
Oscar-winning filmmaker and actor Clint Eastwood added his support for the initiative:
“I am a great supporter of Transcendental Meditation. I have been using it for almost 40 years. I think that it is a great tool for anyone to utilize as tool for stress…. But it’s especially important considering the stress that our men and women of our armed forces go through. I think that it is a great system to use in life in general—otherwise why would I have been doing it all these years!”