Peer Support Groups
The core Mission of Veterans Helping Veterans Heal Themselves is exactly what the name implies: to generate/create a nationwide network of independent, self-supporting, Peer Support Groups with the purpose of giving veterans the capability and the tools needed to deal with their common issues. Rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, PTSD can be put into long-term remission (read substantially remediated) without any meds at all. We actually can and do make many of the symptoms “go away” (and it often doesn’t take long at all) which greatly simplifies our reintegration into “polite society”.
We model our peer groups roughly along the lines of 12-Step groups – which is to say: NO hierarchy, NO dogma, NO “adult supervision”. We know from nearly a century of history along these lines that peer support works – the 12-step groups such as AA, NA, etc. being Exhibit-A. For that and other reasons, empathy is the weapon of choice, and since our peers are the only source of empathy available, peer support becomes, pretty much, the only game in town. Long story short, empathy is a LOT more powerful than it gets credit for. A very competent, well trained mental health professional can provide what looks a little like empathy, but at the end of the day, there is no substitute for brothers who have been where you’ve been, seen what you’ve seen and done what you’ve done.
That having been said, it seems totally obvious and intuitive that it is patently impossible to treat a guy for anything at all while he has a gun in his mouth. But once that issue is dealt with (and we must deal with that first) peer support works quite well. Long story short, you (quite reasonably) trust your brothers more than the VA, the Armed Forces or the Mental Health Industry at large. You can walk into a roomful of your brothers and in just a couple of minutes, you’ll be finishing each other’s sentences. This is exactly as it should be. The bond between warriors is right there at the top of the list of attributes that enhance healing, and cannot be replicated by anything else. Matter of fact, a notable aspect of PTSD is grieving the loss of that camaraderie by folks who have left the Service.
In ancient tribal societies, the warrior archetype was key to the success, and the very survival, of the tribe. A tribe could not survive the loss of its warriors, so they found ways to unwind these guys when they came back from battle. Sadly, when we slaughtered all the aboriginal cultures of the world (save, perhaps, just a few in the Amazon or Australia), we lost all that. Enough folklore survives, however to begin to replicate it. We can use what we can find of those customs as an alternative to opiates, barbiturates and the like that suppress symptoms but heal nothing You may have noticed that much of the healthcare industry appears to confuse the suppressing symptoms (even at the cost of creating more virulent symptoms) with solving the problem.