Returned soldier and yoga teacher Elaine Gallagher is on a mission to help Australian veterans heal through a new program which provides them with access to free or discounted yoga classes and complementary therapy treatments across Australia.
Elaine said she felt propelled to take action after realising the extent to which yoga and meditation was helping her progress along her own road to recovery from with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), triggered after being diagnosed with Stage 5 cervical cancer and the death of her mother.
“Post traumatic stress disorder has become an epidemic among veterans, a group of the population with a much higher risk of suicide, anxiety, sleep disorders and drug abuse. This program is a way we can assist in the rehabilitation of our Australian veterans through holistic healing,” said Elaine.
“I have seen how medication, drugs and alcohol changed friends I used to serve with physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. We want to encourage this treasured group of society to meditate and not medicate.”
Elaine said her ultimate aim was to have Project Oscar Mike (OM) approved and implemented by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) as part of its rehabilitation programs.
Melbourne University health economist Philip Clarke agrees with Elaine on this point, recently telling The Australian the community needed to prepare for a significant and ongoing cost to look after veterans, many of whom were suffering from PTSD.
Dozens of yoga studios and complementary therapy practitioners have joined Elaine’s Project OM since it launched in July 2015.
“I am looking for yoga studios and complementary health practitioners to come on board who share my vision. Together we can help veterans realise it is never too late to seek help and to start all over again,” said Elaine.
Founder of AcuBalance and Endeavour graduate Adele Bishop joined the program earlier this year and has found the experience extremely enlightening and rewarding.
“My experience with our war veterans through Project OM has absolutely magnified for me the intense recovery often needed to rehabilitate back into the community,” said Adele.
“I’ve realised acupuncture can do so much for PSTD – it is great at balancing emotions and can take off the edge of some of these terribly challenging feelings and experiences.
“There is huge potential for complementary medicines generally to help veterans, particularly those who are medicated for emotional trauma and those requiring support for pain management.”
Adele said she was particularly passionate about ensuring veterans could access acupuncture as part of their treatment plans.
“At present acupuncture is not as easily accessible to veterans as it could be and I’d like to see this change.”
A Senate inquiry into the mental health of ADF personnel recently commenced in Canberra.
Our veterans: numbers you should know
There are 320,291 recognised war veterans currently in Australia.
More than 73,000 individuals have been deployed overseas since 1999, according to figures from the Australian Defence Force.
81 per cent of those who served in Vietnam have had at least one disability accepted by the government, confirmed by a submission by the DVA to a recent Senate enquiry.
The number of Afghanistan veterans with an accepted disability suffering post-traumatic stress disorder has more than tripled since 2012, to more than 1000, with that figure growing by 300 a year, according to DVA data.
Homelessness NSW and HomeGround (Victoria) estimate 10 per cent of homeless people in Australia are veterans.
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