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Canadian Veteran Says Nature is a Balm for Soldiers With PTSD

Discussion in 'News, Politics & Debates' started by batgirl, May 15, 2007.

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  1. batgirl

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    A former Canadian soldier once crippled by post-traumatic stress disorder is looking "outside" for solutions to help other veterans overcome the psychological condition.

    Christian McEachern, a Canadian Forces veteran of missions in Croatia and Uganda, turned to nature and the great outdoors for solace after his life unravelled with a breathtaking intensity when PTSD gripped him following his tours of duty in the 1990s.

    The 36-year-old founder of the Canadian Veteran Adventure Foundation said it was by communing with nature through hiking and camping that he was able to restore his life force. He said that life force had been dampened by PTSD symptoms that plagued him, and have plagued a growing number of soldiers returning from overseas.

    "You can stabilize the patient with medications, with counselling and support, but what are we doing to give the guys their human spirit back, that lust for life?" he asked during an interview in Montreal. He was attending a conference on PTSD hosted by Ste. Anne's Hospital, which treats veterans with physical and psychological problems.

    When he returned from his stints abroad as a highly trained combat soldier he struggled with insomnia and self-destructive habits. "There was a lot of binge drinking, relationships falling apart at home," he said.

    But over a two-year period filled with therapy — and an ecotourism course at college, which exposed him to regular doses of the outdoors — he started to feel better.

    Now he hopes to share the gift of nature with others soldiers, especially those returning from Afghanistan, who may be in deep denial about the psychological impact of their experience.

    "There's stigma attached to it. I didn't want to tell anybody that I had PTSD. Did it mean I was weak because I was having problems?" he said.

    As soldiers' experiences with PTSD get more attention there are more resources available, but veterans may be reluctant to pursue traditional therapeutic routes. McEachern believes an outdoor adventure could be an easier sell.

    The next step is to find non-government sponsors for the foundation, and McEachern says he hopes to start leading tours and expeditions in the fall.

    Source: CBC News
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