“Afghanistan was easy, this is hell,” Ann LeClair confessed to the CBC reporter as she described the worry and heartache of watching her son Travis Schouten, suffer through the nightmare that is PTSD. During Travis’s latest black out he had pinned his younger brother between two golf carts and then ended up crawling around on the ground screaming about incoming artillery fire, at a peaceful golf course in Sarnia, Ontario.
Travis doesn’t remember the incident. His way of dealing with the survivor’s guilt and numbness he feels since returning from Afghanistan is to self medicate with alcohol, which when combined with the heavy doses of prescription pills he was taking can be lethal.
What Travis is experiencing is very common among the estimated 6% of Canadian soldiers who come back from Afghanistan with Occupational Stress Injury or PTSD. Symptoms of PTSD can include reliving the traumatic experience through nightmares, flashbacks or even smells. These flashbacks can lead to sleeplessness, irritability and anger. Often the soldier ends up avoiding conversations, places and people that remind him or her of the traumatic event. If left untreated PTSD can lead to suicide. It is estimated that twice the number of US soldiers that were killed in combat in Vietnam have taken their own lives since returning home (102,000 recorded Vietnam veteran suicides).
Dr. Albert “Skip” Rizzo, a cognitive psychologist and virtual therapy developer with the Institute for Creative Technologies developed an immersive simulation technology called “Virtual Iraq/Afghanistan” to help treat US soldiers with PTSD. Under the supervision of a certified exposure therapist the program gradually reintroduces patients to elements of their traumatic experience, until the memory of that event no longer incapacitates them. Clinical trials of the program proved effective. The majority of patients who tried the virtual reality therapy had a significant reduction of their PTSD symptoms. The program has now matured from clinical trials to implementation in over fifty-five US Army bases and private practice exposure therapy clinics across the United States.
Meanwhile back in Canada, the Canadian Forces have been slow to adopt new technology and methods to treat this growing mental health issue. Exposure therapy programs such, as “Virtual Iraq/Afghanistan” have not been available to Canadian soldiers seeking help for their PTSD, until now.
Javelin Reality is excited to announce that we are working with the USC’s Institute of Creative Studies on a pilot project to create a Canadian module for the “Virtual Iraq/Afghanistan” program. The goal of the project is to create an immersive Canadian military experience that the Canadian soldiers who use the exposure therapy can relate to. We are honoured to be taking part in this ground breaking project to help support our troops.
Learn more about Javelin Reality: http://www.javelin-tech.com/main/services/demo_video_production.htm