Management Professor in the NMSU College of Business and veteran Dr. David Boje says when he was preparing to return from his deployment to Vietnam he was told not to wear his uniform, and to try to blend into society the best way he could. He says it was hard to all of a sudden stop being a soldier and return to the man he was before he left.
“After Vietnam we had nothing. The country didn’t really want us back. The psychological associations had written out things like shell shock and stress.It took us until the 1980’s for us to get Posttraumatic Stress Disorder into the psychological assessment manuals,” says Boje.
Boje says that on average 22 veterans per day in the United States commit suicide.
“They are trying to tough it out themselves, instead of getting that sense of the future, and stop reliving the past. They are caught in a cycle, they are caught in a vicious circle,” says Boje.
According to a 2014 Veterans Health Administration report the suicide rate among young male veterans and female veterans is on the rise. The report states Veterans Health Administration male users age 18-29 had a suicide rate of nearly 58 out of 100,000 in 2011, compared to just over 40 in 2009. Female veterans had a rate of just over 14 per 100,000 in 2011 compared to nearly 13 in 2009.
Today, Boje works with military veterans and their families. He helps them relax and share stories of their struggles so that they can seek the right help they may need, and also begin to move forward. To help make it easier for them share, Boje uses a combination of equine therapy along with storytelling.
Boje and works with his wife, NMSU College of Business Professor Dr. Grace Ann Rosile. Their research on this treatment states, “The horse mirrors the deposition of the veteran or family member." Rosile explains how equine therapy works.
“It helps us get in touch with our bodies and relax, and be able to operate from there instead of that defensive-I’ve got to protect myself posture,” says Rosile.
The second part of the treatment is the Embodied Restoring Process. Where Veterans and their families share by using sand play and plastic and cotton figures that may represent a story from deployment to returning home. Boje says that this allows for participants to take control of the moments they remember and helps them move forward.
“They remember little moments of success within deployment, and before deployment. They are able to reclaim those moments and able to reclaim those moments and put them in their story, put them in their future.”
Boje says that he has had veterans tell him after treatment that they are going to seek help for substance abuse or get mental health assistance. So that they don’t go on to become another statistic, and can move forward toward their goals in life.