Veterans tap into mindfulness with new program
A new James Cook University study will use techniques such as mindfulness meditation to try to improve the mental health of Townsville’s military veterans.
To begin in February 2023, the pilot study into the effectiveness of Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction (MBSR) will take 50 veterans through an eight week course at veteran facility The Oasis Townsville.
The treatment will apply to veterans experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, anxiety and everyday stressful emotions, such as anger or frustration.
Lead researcher and JCU Associate Professor of Psychology Wendy Li said little was known about the effectiveness of using MBSR on Australian veterans, a therapy which has been shown to increase attention to and feelings of well-being and reduce stress and worry.
“MBSR is quite popular in the United States and Europe but not in Australia, particularly for veterans,” she said.
“It’s a good way to learn more about the complicated relationship between our mind and our body and better regulate our emotions.”
Associate Prof Li said MBSR was not an intrusive therapy, with veterans to participate in one two-and-a-half hour session per week and an all-day, six hour teacher-guided retreat session during week six of the study.
Participants will be given guided meditation audio recordings to be practiced at home for 20 to 30 minutes, six days a week.
“We will include different types of meditations, include mindful meditation, walking meditation and yoga meditation,” Associate Prof Li said.
“We want to be able to give veterans these skills so they can apply them in their everyday lives. The more they practice, the stronger their mindfulness will be.”
Associate Prof Li said there was a common misconception that mindfulness repressed emotions, when it actually helps a patient better respond to them.
“When we are under stress, we typically have an emotional reaction, such as feeling upset, and we may behave out of character,” she said.
“We may also replay the stressful event in our mind continuously. But if we learn how to respond to that stressful event, we can develop coping strategies and avoid a potential panic attack situation.”
Associate Prof Li said she hoped the study will have positive benefits for participating veterans and provide a base of evidence for future studies.
The Oasis Townsville General Manger Angie Barsby said the organisation was thrilled to partner with JCU for the study.
“The Oasis Townsville is the ‘Homebase’ for the veteran community and when we were advised that the study was particularly for veterans we were on board and excited to be involved,” she said.
“Reducing stress improves veterans’ mental health and it will support improving the overall wellbeing of veterans and their families.
“The Oasis Townsville is always open to programs being conducted at Homebase which support veterans’ wellbeing.”
Townsville veterans interested in participating in the study can Associate Prof Wendy Li on 4781 6850 or Dr Timothy Leow via [email protected]
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