June symbolizes a month of awareness for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder — commonly known as PTSD. As you likely know, the mental health struggle develops after people experience or witness life-threatening events, and it makes PTSD a silent beast running rampant across the globe, leaving devastation and pain in its wake.
Some veterans are learning how to rise above the invisible wounds of war with a familiar companion: Music. And it’s become essential to many.
In America alone, about 8 million adults suffer from PTSD in a given year. This is drastically short of the number of individuals who have gone through trauma and struggle without identifying their distress.
“When you strum a guitar, you feel it resonate at the center of your being.”Peter Nettesheim
For veterans, PTSD is the most common — and, sadly, almost expected — injury obtained from combat. Treatment-seeking veterans have faced stigmatization over the years with labels being placed upon them — such as ‘dangerous,’ ‘violent,’ or ‘crazy.’
The Library of Congress and the Veterans History Project work together to deconstruct the stigma around PTSD treatment, utilizing instruments to create a safe space where veterans can express their emotions and let the music do the healing.
Bob Regan, Patrick Nettesheim and George ‘Doc’ Todd joined together last week to discuss how music has not only changed their lives but given them a method to transform other lives, too.
“We are not therapists, we are not friends, we are not family — we are just someone with completely no dog in the hunt. Our only intention is to help each other,” Bob Regan, songwriter and founder of Operation Song — a music program for veterans — said. “It is very low pressure; we just start with a conversation.”
PTSD treatments consist of psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, with the aim to break down or find ways to control the internal turmoil and trouble felt.
Despite the effectiveness of treatment, most people who suffer from PTSD do not get the help needed. This is where Bob Regan, Patrick Nettesheim and Doc Todd believe music intervenes as a natural form of treatment by creating an emotional resonance for veterans to tell their story without feeling stigmatized or under pressure.
“When you strum a guitar, you feel it resonate at the center of your being,” Peter Nettesheim explained. “I don’t know what the science is behind it being therapeutic, but what I can say is that we have observed it time and time again.”
The evidence supporting music as a therapeutic resource shows pain perception can be reduced by 20% and is quickly becoming a therapy technique incorporated throughout various medical centers and situations across America.
“We are not therapists, we are not friends, we are not family — we are just someone with completely no dog in the hunt, Our only intention is to help each other.”Bob Regan, songwriter and founder of Operation Song
“When someone close to you dies or you are consumed by tragedy in some form, it can hang with you. You get into a trance because that feeling doesn’t subside — you go to bed with it, you wake up with it,” Peter Nettesheim said. “When you start playing and getting into a song, that feeling leaves because you’re engaging your mind, body and soul.”
Veterans account for 19 million Americans, and of those, 13% experience PTSD. It can’t be tracked to how PTSD affects one’s life — no two veterans are the same — yet statistics aren’t needed to know that PTSD is real and a heavy burden to bear.
“We are dancing in a very serious field,” veteran hip-hop artist Doc Todd said. “There’s a lot expected of me, and I must honor what I do, and I must bring the right mindset and spirit daily because I have no doubt that we’re impacting people’s lives.”