Thursday, January 26, 2012

Study asks, does outdoor exercise help PTSD?

Does getting outside help reduce the symptoms of PTSD? A new study will examine the potential link between outdoor trips and veterans' mental health.

A press release from the Sierra Club appears below:

U-M, Sierra Club to study links between outdoor experience, veterans’ mental health

SAN FRANCISCO – For six years, the Sierra Club has organized outdoor trips for American military service members, veterans and their families. Now, the national environmental group is working with the University of Michigan on a research project to measure how those trips affect veterans’ individual mental health.

U-M researchers at the School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE) will analyze the results of surveys given to about 120 veterans before and after upcoming six-day excursions. While scientific research increasingly shows a strong link between mental and health benefits and the natural environment, the Sierra Club wanted to know if its programs, which are offered at no or reduced costs, were producing the same results.

“The Sierra Club has been organizing outings with military families and veterans for years, and we know anecdotally from participants that outdoor experiences have been vital to their reintegration,” said Stacy Bare, National Military Families and Veterans Representative for Sierra Club. “Securing quantitative data that reinforces these beliefs will support our efforts to make these types of experiences available on a larger scale.”

Coordinating the research work at U-M are SNRE Professor Rachel Kaplan and research scientist Jason Duvall.

“The overall objective of this research is to explore whether contact with the natural environment is associated with improvements to mental health and psychological functioning of veterans,” Kaplan said.

The project will take about 18 months to complete, but started last fall when the surveys were written and tested. The veteran’s excursions begin in March.

Through a selective process, Sierra Club chose four partner organizations to execute quality outdoor experiences: Higher Ground (Sun Valley, Idaho); Wasatch Adaptive Sports (Snowbird, Utah); Wilderness Inquiry (Minneapolis, Minn.); and Women’s Wilderness Institute (Boulder, Colo.).  Each outing will provide at least four days of an outside experience. Some programs are free, while others require the participant to cover transportation and up to $100 for tuition.

The excursions vary from fly fishing, kayaking and whitewater rafting to backpacking and paddling. There are two courses specifically for female veterans, and one for military spouses, partners or caregivers. For dates and contact information, visit

“By now the empirical literature is substantial with numerous studies documenting the diversity of health and well-being benefits related to the nearby natural environment,” Kaplan said. “Studies examining the impact of wilderness experiences have suggested that more extended nature experiences can also offer important benefits. Given these potential benefits, exposure to natural environments and outdoor recreation may be particularly helpful to military veterans and active duty personnel since studies indicate that these individuals are more likely to experience serious mental health issues, such as depression and PTSD.”

The Sierra Club and its partner organizations will collect and maintain the data and administer the surveys. This process is designed to assure that U-M researchers cannot identify the participants. Participants will be asked to complete a survey about one-week prior to the recreation experience. Short-term changes in psychological health, social health and coping/problem-solving abilities will be assessed by asking participants to complete a survey a week after the experience.

To assess whether changes were sustained, a second post-test will be given three to four weeks after the excursion. The pre-test, initial post-test and second post-test will be administered using an online survey tool.

“How durable are any changes? Does the kind of program matter? Is the composition of the group important? Does the benefit of an outdoor program relate to the veterans’ military experiences?” Kaplan asked. “We expect this research to be a useful step in exploring such questions.”

About Military Family and Veterans Initiative:
Sierra Club's Military Family and Veterans Initiative (MFVI), formerly Military Families Outdoors (MFO) is part of Mission Outdoors, the Sierra Club’s campaign to provide access to outdoor experiences to people of all ages and backgrounds.  MFVI makes available a variety of opportunities for American Military Service Members, Veterans, and their families to experience the freedom of the land they defend.

About the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment:
The School of Natural Resources and Environment's overarching objective is to contribute to the protection of the Earth's resources and the achievement of a sustainable society. Through research, teaching, and outreach, faculty, staff and students are devoted to generating knowledge and developing policies, techniques and skills to help practitioners manage and conserve natural and environmental resources to meet the full range of human needs on a sustainable basis.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Crochet as PTSD therapy?

Knit one, heal two?

Crochet is hardly the most macho hobby in the world, but maybe that's why it can actually be a good activity for people with PTSD. An article on Crochet Concupiscence calls crochet "a form of self-kindness," saying its slow pace can help put you into a meditative state that will in turn reduce anxiety and the severity of flashbacks.

Read on:

Crochet Is Healing … Even for People With PTSD

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Free online PTSD empowerment & addiction recovery meetings start this week

Fearless Nation PTSD Support starts a weekly schedule of online PTSD empowerment and addiction recovery meetings this week.

Weekly meetings that start with a brief introduction to a PTSD topic, followed by peer-led discussion, Q & A, demonstrations, proven strategies and techniques for controlling PTS symptoms and challenges. Recover from post trauma and become stress-resistant! control and manage daily stress, learn flexibility & resiliency. Education and discussion. Voice and text.

Weekly meetings to address substance abuse and addiction, including peer support and education on coping with addiction issues. Not a 12-Step Program. No "public confessions" and no coins. Simply education and proven methods for beating addictions. Voice and text.


Friday, January 6, 2012

Fearless Nation open house today

The nonprofit Fearless Nation PTSD Support (which this blog supports) will have an orientation open house and tour of its new online retreat today, January 6, at 1pm and 5pm PST.

Fearless Nation operates in Spot On 3D, which is a combination of social networking and 3D graphics to create a virtual reality environment that is conducive to meetings, education, and PTSD recovery.

The online retreat contains an expansive library about PTSD and will be the location for weekly peer-discussion meetings. Several new online tools will be rolled out over the coming weeks.

Spot On 3D is free, but it will take you a little while to create your account. Check out this page for instructions.

Full information on the open house and other meetings can be found here.

You can also find Fearless Nation on Facebook.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Two free online PTSD presentations today

Fearless Nation PTSD Support will hold two free online presentations and discussions on "What is PTSD?" today at 1pm and 5pm PST.

The lectures, by Fearless Nation founder Colleen Crary, will focus on the basics of PTSD as well as the latest research in recovery. The presentations will be followed by a discussion and Q and A session.

Later this week, Fearless Nation will also host peer-led discussions on empowerment and addiction recovery, as well as an open house of the Fearless Nation PTSD Support virtual retreat.

Full information on the presentations and discussion groups is available here.

Pre-registration is required for the events, which gives you time to join SpotOn 3D, the new social networking home of Fearless Nation.