Two of the leading diagnoses among troops returning from battle are Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). According to a study, 300,000 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffer from PTSD or major depression, and about 320,00 experience at least a mild concussion or TBI in combat. Untreated mental health problems among returning troops is a serious and costly issue. These and other mental health issues are expected to cost the nation up to $6.2 billion over two years in medical costs, lost productivity, and lives lost to suicide.
The Caisson Platoon Equine Assisted Program, which serves the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland and the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Washington, DC, donated $12,500 seed funding to the Horses and Humans Research Foundation to help address this growing problem in the United States. The research will focus on equine-assisted rehabilitation for veterans who have PTSD and TBI.
“[We are] now in our 6th year of providing equine-assisted activities for veterans at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center,” said Larry Pence and Mary Jo Beckman, co-founders of Caisson Platoon Equine Assisted Program. They approached HHRF to create this special call for proposals when they recognized both the growing numbers of mental health issues among clients and the lack of high-quality research to validate equine-assisted activities and therapies (EAA/T). “We look forward to equine-assisted activities being recognized as valuable treatment for both TBI and PTSD.”
“In just a short time, many centers have created programs to help wounded warriors, and really anyone with PTSD, with or without an accompanying TBI,” said Paul A. Spiers Ph.D., HHRF Scientific Committee member and founding Chairman of the PATH International Horses for Heroes Task Force. “The positive outcomes have been remarkable but the findings are still just anecdotal. It is specifically the kind of research that HHRF is seeking to fund with this initiative that will establish the validity of equine-assisted activities and therapies for treating these populations. Our wounded warriors deserve the opportunity to find their lives again, and EAA/T may be the most effective, and, for some, may be the only way to help them find their way back.”