Veterans and mindfulness: a community-based peer led initiative
Clifford, Daniel R.
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Traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health diagnosis that can result from exposure to both chronic and extreme stress. PTSD negatively impacts a disproportionate number of veterans and first responders and is related to a variety of negative health outcomes such as depression, anxiety, chronic health issues, and suicidality and can also impact the families and social support networks of veterans and first responders. Particularly for veterans, the Department of Veterans' Affairs has struggled to meet the needs of veterans recently returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. For both populations, mental health stigma represents another barrier for these individuals to receive necessary services. This study sought to evaluate the impact of a community-based, peer-led initiative to teach mind-body self-care skills to veterans and first responders in the Wichita, Kansas community. Veteran facilitators were trained and certified through the Center for Mind-Body Medicine to lead a 10 week intervention. A mixed methodological approach and a phenomenological analysis provided insight into veteran and first responder experience. Results indicated that veterans and emergency service providers benefitted from the group experience. Several themes around self-regulation, mindfulness, and peer support suggest that the psychoeducation, meditation practice, and sharing components of the group contributed to personal growth and new coping skills. Veteran facilitators were viewed by participants as peers and helped contribute to a safe environment. Additional feedback about the group experience was also provided. This study provides support for the further study and implementation of Center for Mind-Body Medicine community-based groups that utilize peer facilitators to teach mindfulness and meditation skills to veterans and emergency service providers.
Thesis (Ph.D.)-- Wichita State University, Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of Psychology