“Peace of Mind”
Helping Combat Soldiers Make the Transition to Civilian Life
Every year, thousands of young, Israeli combat soldiers are discharged from their military duties back to civilian life. The majority of them take from 6 months to a year or more to adjust to civilian life. To clear their minds from their experiences, many flee the country to “trek” to the Far East or South America. Israeli society has not developed a mechanism to help make the transition from combat soldier to young adult civilian. There is an urgent need to help strengthen our discharged combat soldiers, while simultaneously instilling in them the proper tools to successfully handle and mitigate the impact of the psychological traumas that they faced during battle on their daily lives. The “Peace of Mind” project is a unique intervention designed specifically to do exactly this.
Israelis in combat go through many hardships. Besides the enormous physical efforts, soldiers are living under continuous threat, and are exposed to grotesque injury and death. Although most soldiers from combat units display remarkable resilience, the long term effects of this accumulated traumatic exposure are there. Difficulties to let go of hyper-alertness, frequent intrusive recollections and a negative change in how they view the world are well documented consequences. They can lead to substance abuse, bouts of anger and difficulties in building relationships. These frequent symptoms, which in some get to the level of full-fledged disorders, form the basis of the need for emotional processing. Israeli youngsters are paying a very high price for having to defend the country. The Peace of Mind project is based on the conviction that the damage can and should be prevented.
The Peace of Mind project is composed of 3 main elements.
1. A two-day preparatory workshop providing outdoor activities to bring the soldiers together
and start a different kind of dialogue on their combat experiences.
2. The heart of “Peace of Mind” is a six to eight day processing experience combining half-day group sessions with leisure experiences. The setting outside of Israel allows the soldiers to disconnect from the stresses of Israel and also from their immediate environment. It also provides a unique and intimate atmosphere which would be more difficult to achieve at home. Two ICTP therapists accompany each group of 12-20 soldiers. The groups until now are being hosted by Jewish communities, so that there are not costs for lodging.
3. A concluding one-day workshop in Israel for processing and closure takes place six weeks after the main workshop. Additional treatment is made available for those in need.
Peace of Mind is based on the experience and scientific work of the Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma of Herzog Hospital, that is affiliated with Hebrew University. All of the workshops are evaluated to establish the outcome.
“It was so powerful. There are boys in the group that never opened up and shared their feelings before. In the workshops they were able to open up, and talk, and you could see that a ‘stone was lifted from their heart’.”‘