Honoring the Path of the Warrior is a program that assists post 9/11 and Persian Gulf veterans in making a positive transition from military to civilian life. We provide a pathway of meditation and mindfulness that welcomes, honors, and integrates their service and leadership.
Our programs combine nature and engaging physical activities; meditation, Sensory Awareness and mindfulness practices. The intent is to provide Veterans with connection, community and tools that support them in using their strengths and experiences to find a meaningful and productive path in civilian life. Mindfulness-based interventions have proven to be successful at transforming stress, anxiety and trauma in a number of diverse populations and are being used within the VA system for returning veterans as well as deployed soldiers.
HPW is a San-Francisco-based non-profit organization under the fiscal sponsorship of the San Francisco Zen Center.
Why It Matters
Every HPW event brings forward stories of insight, connection and healing. The veterans’ stories demonstrate spirit, compassion and tenacity. The veterans we have the privilege to meet are truly extraordinary people, in very ordinary ways. They sincerely and wholeheartedly offer their lives, bodies and spirits to be of service to others. And along the way, many have encountered and known suffering beyond our imagining.
We all need the wisdom and experience of veterans to help us deepen and grow in our understanding of war and its costs. HPW provides the support of community and the tools of mindfulness and meditation to bring to fruition what veterans set out to do when they committed themselves to a path of service.
Statistics of soldiers and veterans with PTSD and other war-related injuries have been published by the Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs and the National Institutes of Health since 2002. These statistics have been further analyzed and cascaded throughout the many affiliated organizations and service providers. The result is significant amounts of data now available on the number of affected veterans and their symptoms.
It has now widely known that rates of PTSD among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are at least 20%, and that rates of suicide, substance abuse and homelessness are growing. What’s particularly telling is that while it is difficult to accurately track the rate of suicide due to under-reporting, more military personnel are dying from suicide than in combat.
Here is some of the research and statistics on this:
- According to the RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research’s study, Invisible Wounds of War, 2008, of the 1.7 million veterans who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, 300,000 or 20% suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or major depression.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) also estimates that nearly 13,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have alcohol dependence syndrome (2009).
- In a survey of all veterans, the 2004 – 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health published on November 1, 2007, 7.1% (1.8 million vets) meet criteria for a substance abuse disorder (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.)
- Data from the VA shows that the suicide rate for 18- to 29-year-old male veterans who have left the military rose 26% from 2005 to 2007, and the rate climbed to record highs by 2009 (January 2010).
Given these numbers, the DoD and VA have approved significant, additional monies for psychological services at VA facilities. However, evidence shows that:
- Only 50% of patients who complete evidence-based treatments (EBT) such as psychotherapies and psychopharmacological approaches are successfully treated.
- Many in need don’t seek help. According to the Army, only 40% of veterans who screen positive for serious emotional problems seek help from a mental health professional (Mental Health Advisory Team IV: Operation Iraqi Freedom, May 2007). Statistics from the RAND Corporation are even worse, finding that only 30% of veterans with PTSD or depression seek help from the VA health system (Invisible Wounds of War, 2008).
- The Army recognizes that stigma is a major barrier for veterans in need of mental health care (Mental Health Advisory Team IV, May 2007). According to SAMHSA in 2007, service members frequently cite fear of personal embarrassment, disappointing comrades, losing the opportunity for career advancement, and dishonorable discharge as motivations to hide symptoms of mental illness from family, friends, and colleagues.
Clearly, there is a growing need for interventions outside of the VA; also, evidence suggests that new methods are needed to successfully treat the non-physical wounds of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.