Relieving human suffering among U.S. service men and women

New York Times Mental Stress Training Is Planned for U.S. Soldiers (August 18, 2009 – MLS: No longer online.) is about how to prepare soldiers for the psychological rigors of war. It’s heartening to see that the top brass are finally seeking assistance in dealing with the surge in suicides, post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), depression and other problems in the wake of nearly a decade of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan:

And in the interview, General Casey said the mental effects of repeated deployments — rising suicide rates in the Army, mild traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress — had convinced commanders “that we need a program that gives soldiers and their families better ways to cope.”

The general agreed to the interview after The New York Times learned of the program from Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, chairman of the University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center, who has been consulting with the Pentagon.

In recent studies, psychologists at Penn and elsewhere have found that the techniques can reduce mental distress in some children and teenagers. But outside experts cautioned that the Army program was more an experiment than a proven solution.

The Philadelphia Inquirer had an article (Penn center to help Army on stress, July 31, 2009 – MLS: No longer available online) on this same issue.

Seligman is the lead thinker behind positive psychology and has had a major impact on how people are treated. I recommend that anyone with an interest should visit, an initiative to take good mental practices to the masses. Seligman and his crew have developed a series of easy to follow exercises and routines that help you shift your mind set [No longer available].

Almost Buddhist in nature, the approach aims to relieve human suffering. Although not mindfulness, it asks that you change the story that you’re telling yourself inside your head. It asks you to examine your thoughts, which any bodhisattva would appreciate.

Finally, this effort is far better use of psychology than what the idiotic Bush Administration by employing psychologists to develop interrogation techniques that crossed the line into torture. Ironically, the quacks that advised the Pentagon distorted a concept, “learned helplessness” that Seligman (see Wikipedia entry) developed 30 years ago.