David Lynch Foundation’s
OPERATION WARRIOR WELLNESS
Overcoming PTSD and Promoting Mental Resilience through Transcendental Meditation.
Thirty-five percent of U.S. soldiers deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001 are said to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). According to researchers, people with PTSD exhibit over-arousal of the sympathetic nervous system (exaggerated fight or flight response). Symptoms include anxiety, hyper-vigilance, startle response, nightmares or flashbacks, insomnia, anger and withdrawal. The Veterans Administration says nearly half of all veterans with PTSD have never sought help; of those who do, half receive inadequate treatment. Everyday in the U.S., 18 veterans commit suicide.
OPERATION WARRIOR WELLNESS
The David Lynch Foundation, a nonprofit 501(c))(3), established “Operation Warrior Wellness” to teach the stress-reducing Transcendental Meditation technique to 10,000 veterans with PTSD and their families. Research found veterans suffering from PTSD who practiced TM showed significant reductions in depression, anxiety and family problems after four months, in contrast to veterans randomly assigned psychotherapy. Research also shows the TM technique also directly affects the neurobiological aspects of PTSD, resulting in more balanced serotonin and norepinephrine, regulation of the sympathetic nervous system, and more coherent, integrated brain function.”
ABOUT THE DAVID LYNCH FOUNDATION
The David Lynch Foundation was established in 2005 by award-winning filmmaker David Lynch (Twin Peaks, The Elephant Man, Mulholland Drive) to fund the implementation of scientifically proven stress-reducing modalities, such as Transcendental Meditation, for at-risk populations suffering from traumatic stress and stress-related disorders, which include veterans with PTSD, inner-city students, American Indians suffering from diabetes and high suicide rates; homeless men and children; and incarcerated juveniles and adults. For more information on the David Lynch Foundation’s programs visit http://dlfprojects.org.
Veterans Day: Can Meditation Help Veterans Overcome PTSD?
by Jeanne Ball, Huffington Post
Inspired by one of the last surviving, decorated World War II fighter pilots, filmmaker David Lynch is teaming up with friends to launch “Operation Warrior Wellness,” a meditation-based program to help veterans overcome stress-related disorders.
At the upcoming benefit Change Begins Within, Lynch will be joined by Clint Eastwood, Russell Simmons, Mehmet Oz, Russell Brand, Katy Perry, Donna Karan and others in support of a project to provide Transcendental Meditation instruction to 10,000 veterans and their families. The event will be December 13 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Thirty-five percent of U.S. soldiers deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001 are said to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). David Lynch Foundation spokesman Robert Roth: “We believe Operation Warrior Wellness has great potential for treating PTSD by affecting the neurophysiology that underlies the disorder, eliminating rather than masking its symptoms.”
The nonprofit program is being guided by a team of psychiatrists, PTSD researchers and medical school faculty across the country.
How Operation Warrior Wellness Began
Jerry Yellin of Hillside, New Jersey enlisted in the Army Air Corps on his eighteenth birthday — February 15, 1942. He was trained to fly and then assigned to the 78th Fighter Squadron, which arrived at Iwo Jima on March 7, 1945. After landing his P-51 fighter plane on the island’s dirt runway, Yellin saw mounds and mounds of Japanese bodies being pushed into mass graves, and hundreds of Marines awaiting identification and burial.
Yellin flew 19 long-range missions over Japan. He flew with eleven other young pilots who were killed in combat and five who were killed in training, all of them his friends.
He returned to New Jersey in December 1945, was given a physical and handed his discharge papers.
“I was unable to find any contentment or reason to succeed, and felt no connection to family or friends. The Army Air Corps had trained me to fly combat missions, but there was no training on how to fit into society when the war was over.”
In those days, the anxiety, disconnect and depression commonly experienced by veterans was dismissed as “battle fatigue” or loosely labeled “shell shock.” “Every soldier who’s been in combat lives with his memories and suffers silently,” says Yellin. “That condition is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Yellin’s unspoken agitation lasted decades — until he discovered meditation.
“After a few weeks of twice-daily practice, my attitude began to change. It was the beginning of a metamorphosis. The anger and restlessness began to dissipate. A calmness I’d never known became apparent — not only to me but my family as well.”
Yellin felt that Transcendental Meditation saved his life. Enlisting the help of other meditating veterans, including an Army surgeon who served four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and a retired Marine with 28 years of service, Yellin joined forces with the David Lynch Foundation to create Operation Warrior Wellness.
“We are in crisis mode”
Although PTSD is associated mostly with combat-frayed veterans, experts say that any high-stress experience or trauma can trigger the disorder. Ten percent of Americans will experience PTSD in their lifetime — and women are twice more susceptible than men.
According to researchers, people with PTSD exhibit over-arousal of the sympathetic nervous system (exaggerated flight or flight response). Symptoms include anxiety, hyper-vigilance, heightened startle response, nightmares, flashbacks, insomnia, anger and withdrawal.
The Veterans Administration says half of all veterans with PTSD have never sought help; of those who do, half receive inadequate treatment. Everyday in the U.S., 18 veterans commit suicide — and more die from stress-driven, high-risk behavior such as overdose or drunk driving. We are losing more veterans to trauma-related causes than we are losing soldiers in battle.
“Drugs are costly and don’t provide a cure,” says Yellin. “Mental health professionals provide excellent care but it depends on complete cooperation from the patient and takes a long, long time. Sufferers of PTSD, and their loved ones, do not have that time. America does not have that time. We are in crisis mode.”
Overcoming PTSD: Is meditation the answer?
Norman Rosenthal, M.D., Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University is enthusiastic about using Transcendental Meditation to treat PTSD: “There are many studies showing that TM sooths overactive fight or flight responses. TM is a logical treatment for this condition.”
In a study published in Journal of Counseling and Development, veterans suffering from PTSD who practiced the TM technique showed significant reductions in depression, anxiety and family problems after four months, in contrast to veterans randomly assigned psychotherapy.
“Transcendental Meditation isn’t introspection or reliving the past,” says Roth. “You transcend thinking and enjoy deep, coherent rest, which helps heal the physiological seat of stress. Neuroscientists say that TM restores communication among different areas of the brain — reconnecting the parts that were stunned by trauma.”
Former president of the Psychiatric Association of Virginia, psychiatrist James Krag: “Research shows that Transcendental Meditation not only reduces symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression, it directly affects the neurobiological aspects of PTSD, resulting in more balanced serotonin and norepinephrine, regulation of the sympathetic nervous system and more coherent, integrated brain function.”
Change Begins Within
At a historic benefit concert in 2009, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Jerry Seinfeld and others launched the Foundation’s “Change Begins Within” outreach to teach meditation to at-risk youth. This year’s benefit brings together celebrities, research scientists and philanthropists to support Operation Warrior Wellness.
Clint Eastwood is a supporter of veterans and longtime meditator. Russell Brand says meditation put a distance between himself and addiction. Russell Simmons sponsors Transcendental Meditation programs for the homeless and inner-city kids.
Yellin, now 86, is excited about the celebrity support, but somber about the cause: “Can we expect our veterans to return from the horrors of war and integrate into a normal life without something deep and meaningful to hold onto? This is a tool to help them help themselves, not for just a month or two but forever.”
Invitation from David Lynch
Last year, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr launched the David Lynch Foundation’s “Change Begins Within” global outreach to teach one million at-risk adolescents and teens stress-reducing meditation at an historic concert at Radio City Music Hall. Since then, nearly 150,000 inner-city students have begun utilizing these techniques to eliminate traumatic stress that undermines academic achievement and short-circuits lives. These students have dramatically better test scores, grades, and graduation rates while drop out rates, suspensions, and expulsions have greatly decreased. The program has the full-hearted support of superintendents, principals, faculty, students, and parents.
More groups of people from all walks of life have come to embrace our program, including veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and their families; homeless adults; children from the streets of Harlem and East LA; American Indians subsisting on impoverished reservations; and incarcerated men and women locked away in maximum security penitentiaries. And the demand has never been greater in New York City; in particular among local schools, veterans groups, and homeless shelter re-entry programs.
I am proud to invite you to the second “Change Begins Within” benefit on Monday December 13, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Russell Brand, Clint Eastwood, Mehmet Oz, Katy Perry, Russell Simmons, myself, and other very special guests will be part of a very different and exciting evening which lays out as follows:
• 6:30 p.m. — Great Hall
• 7:30 p.m. — The Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium
Find out directly from Dr. Oz how you can overcome the build-up of stress (holiday and otherwise) in your own life and hear from Russell, Clint, Katy, and Russell how combat-frayed veterans, inner-city students and New York’s homeless are overcoming the traumatic stresses of their lives.
• 8:30 p.m. — The Temple of Dendur in the Sackler Wing
in all its mystic beauty will be the setting for dinner with amazing guest entertainment
I hope you will be part of this extraordinary event, and discover firsthand why change begins within. Let it begin with you.
I look forward to seeing you there.
Transforming the lives of at-risk populations
At-risk populations suffer from epidemic levels of chronic stress and stress-related disorders—fueling violence, crime, and soaring health costs, and compromising the effectiveness of education, health, rehabilitation, and vocational programs now in place.
The David Lynch Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, was established in 2005 to fund the implementation of scientifically proven stress-reducing modalities, including Transcendental Meditation, for at-risk populations, including underserved inner-city students; American Indians suffering from diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and high suicide rates; soldiers with PTSD; homeless men participating in reentry programs striving to overcome addictions; and incarcerated juveniles and adults.
The Foundation also funds university and medical school research to assess the effects of the program on academic performance, ADHD and other learning disorders, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, cardiovascular disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, and diabetes.
The effectiveness of the Foundation’s programs have been researched at leading medical schools, including Harvard Medical School, Stanford Medical School, and Yale Medical School, and have received the endorsement of and support from private foundations and government agencies, including the National Institutes of Health, General Motors Foundation, the Chrysler Foundation, the Kellogg Foundation, the American Indian Education Association, Indian Health Services, many school districts, and state departments of corrections.