Editor’s Note: Sam Peterson is a good friend of SOFREP.  He is a fellow veteran on a mission to help alleviate the suffering caused by service-connected mental health conditions.  To that end, he operates Mind Spa Denver, a veteran physician-led team of mental health professionals dedicated to employing a variety of therapies to help our community achieve wellness. 

Hey everyone. My name is Sam Peterson. I’m a former Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) team leader and combat veteran turned mental health professional. I’m here to shed light on an issue that is as explosive and yet neglected as the bombs I dealt with in Afghanistan: the mental health of our combat veterans and what the hell we can do about it. Veterans’ mental health is a pressing issue, yet it’s often mismanaged and under-resourced. We’ve walked the razor’s edge between life and death, an experience that leaves indelible marks on the psyche. Yet, when we return from the battlefield, we’re met with inadequate mental health resources. Simply put, the current state of veteran mental health care sucks.

Veterans are more likely to experience conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety, than our civilian counterparts. These conditions can have life-altering consequences. The rate of suicide among veterans is significantly higher than in the civilian population. Despite the alarming statistics, many veterans struggle to access appropriate mental health care. The most common treatments include medication and talk therapy, often with long waiting times and inconsistent results. While these treatments alone can be effective for a small portion of our population, the simple fact is that often they don’t work.

This is where I believe our system needs a revolution. Emerging treatments, such as deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (dTMS), hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), and ketamine infusion therapy, offer promising outcomes and could very well be the game-changers we need in our fight against mental health disorders, and NO ONE seems to know about them. So here is a quick synopsis. In future pieces, I will do a deep dive into each of these treatments to talk about how they can be used to treat different mental health conditions. Please understand that I am not a doctor, and this is NOT medical advice, but it can help grease the wheels a little bit and get us collectively thinking about the alternative options to suffering in silence.

Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (dTMS) is a non-invasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain, thus reducing symptoms of mental health disorders. It’s already being used to treat depression, and early evidence suggests that it might be effective for PTSD too. It could, therefore, be a crucial tool for veterans.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is another promising treatment. It involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized room or tube. HBOT is believed to stimulate the healing of wounds and brain tissue, which could be transformative for veterans struggling with the invisible wounds of PTSD and related conditions.

Then we have Ketamine Infusion Therapy, a treatment used for treatment-resistant depression and PTSD. Ketamine, a once-popular anesthetic, can relieve symptoms faster than traditional antidepressants. This can be life-changing for a veteran battling with severe depression or PTSD.