Veter­ans’ re­treat to pro­mote mind­ful­ness

Imperial Valley Press - - FRONT PAGE - BY JULIO MO­RALES Staff Writer

IM­PE­RIAL — Veter­ans and ac­tive duty mem­bers of the mil­i­tary, along with their spouses and chil­dren, are in­vited to a free three-day Mind­ful War­rior Project re­treat where par­tic­i­pants can learn about tech­niques aimed at com­bat­ing stress re­lated to mil­i­tary ser­vice.

The re­treat will in­form par­tic­i­pants about prac­tices that pro­mote self-heal­ing by an­a­lyz­ing one’s feel­ings and emo­tions through med­i­ta­tive prac­tices, said Mary Es­quer, Im­pe­rial County Be­hav­ioral Health Ser­vices (ICBHS) adult ser­vices man­ager.

“The plan is to ex­plore ways to heal­ing and em­pow­er­ment,” Es­quer said, “and move out of the sur­vival mode and into the thriv­ing mode.”

The re­treat, which starts Fri­day, is be­ing or­ga­nized by ICBHS and the county Veter­ans Ser­vice Of­fice (VSO), with the par­tic­i­pa­tion of fa­cil­i­ta­tors from the non­profit Mind­ful War­rior Project.

The re­treat will not pro­vide par­tic­i­pants with di­ag­nos­ing, in­take, or men­tal health treat­ment or re­port­ing.

It in­stead will high­light the Mind­ful War­rior Project’s cur­ricu­lum of self-com­pas­sion, self-for­give­ness, ac­cep­tance, and non-judg­men­tal be­hav­ior.

Work­shops sched­uled for Satur­day and Sun­day will in­form par­tic­i­pants about ef­fec­tive prac­tices that in­di­vid­u­als can em­ploy to pro­mote mind­ful­ness and learn to bet­ter deal with be­hav­ioral is­sues by re­main­ing in the present mo­ment.

“Its pur­pose is to em­power peo­ple to be well and live a bal­anced life,” Es­quer said.

As a Viet­nam vet­eran who was sub­se­quently di­ag­nosed with post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der, Fed­erico Gar­cia said such mind­ful­ness prac­tices have proven ben­e­fi­cial in his life.

The Val­ley na­tive and re­tired cor­rec­tions of­fi­cer said that many lo­cal veter­ans may mis­tak­enly down­play the ben­e­fit of adopt­ing mind­ful prac­tices, which do not in­volve a pro­fes­sional be­hav­ioral health pro­fes­sional, and dif­fer from the one-onone or group coun­sel­ing typ­i­cally avail­able to those di­ag­nosed with PTSD.

De­spite the ben­e­fits of mind­ful­ness prac­tices, Gar­cia, a county VSO rep­re­sen­ta­tive, said he is con­cerned that those that may ben­e­fit most from the ac­tiv­i­ties may not be aware of their avail­abil­ity, or be too busy to take ad­van­tage.

“The pop­u­la­tion that would ben­e­fit the most from this is the pop­u­la­tion that is most busy right now with do­ing what they have to do,” Gar­cia said, re­fer­ring to the veter­ans’ work and fam­ily re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

Yet, adopt­ing mind­ful prac­tices can al­low in­di­vid­u­als to bet­ter re­spond to in­stances of guilt, anger, de­pres­sion on their own ini­tia­tive, he said.

“It’s some­thing in your tool kit that you can use in your day to day ex­pe­ri­ence,” Gar­cia said. “It’s a real prac­ti­cal nuts and bolts method to deal­ing with PTSD.”

The up­com­ing re­treat, which starts Fri­day with an ori­en­ta­tion that is also open to the pub­lic and ser­vice providers, is a wel­come ad­di­tion to be­hav­ioral health ser­vices al­ready avail­able to lo­cal veter­ans, said Robert Avila, county VSO veter­ans ser­vice of­fi­cer.

Cur­rently avail­able ser­vices in­clude one-onone in-per­son coun­sel­ing of­fered by the VSO twice a week, as well as telemedicine ser­vices of­fered at the Veter­ans Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s El Cen­tro of­fice, Avila said.

The ICBHS also teaches mind­ful ther­apy prac­tices to its pa­tients, al­though it is only a com­po­nent of a wider va­ri­ety of tra­di­tional be­hav­ioral health ther­apy that pa­tients re­ceive, Es­quer said.

“We use it in the course of ther­apy some­times, but not all the time,” she said.

Mind­ful War­rior Project fa­cil­i­ta­tors are also ex­pected to re­turn to the Val­ley on Dec. 2 for a fol­low up meet­ing, where in­for­ma­tion will be pro­vided to com­mu­nity mem­bers who are in­ter­ested in as­sist­ing the non­profit with its ef­forts, as well as be­com­ing trained to be­come a fa­cil­i­ta­tor, Es­quer said.

The three-day re­treat gets un­der­way Fri­day at the Ric­o­chet Rec Cen­ter.

Satur­day and Sun­day’s work­shops are avail­able only for veter­ans, ac­tive duty mil­i­tary per­son­nel and their fam­i­lies, or­ga­niz­ers said.

Child­care will also be avail­able for par­tic­i­pants.

For more in­for­ma­tion and to reg­is­ter, please con­tact Pa­tri­cia Arevalo-Caro at 760-482-2118 or at bh­scct@co.im­pe­rial.ca.us or Robert Avila at 442-265-3200 or rober­toav­ila@co.im­pe­rial.ca.us

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