For the final instalment of this series John Skipper, a military veteran who served in the Falklands, Northern Ireland and Bosnia, discusses the time he spent as part of the PTSD research currently taking place at Cardiff University.
My team worked with John as part of the 3MDR trial (Modular Motion-assisted Memory Desensitisation and Reconsolidation). It’s an innovative treatment which involves the patient walking on a treadmill whilst interacting with a series of images, that they’ve chosen, displayed on a large screen.
You are now a public spokesperson for PTSD research at Cardiff University, what made you go into this role?
Simply, I want to help others similarly afflicted – fellow veterans and service personnel of course, but those across the whole human community who struggle with mental health illness.
I was very fortunate to have been in a position where timely help and understanding was quickly at hand. For many it is not.
Through my own experience I want to help my colleagues understand the condition – because you have to experience it to understand it. This helps me as well – knowing that I can actually help others. I’m making a difference I hope, a contrast to those dark days in July 1995 when I was powerless.
I found that helping with research is therapy in itself.
If a veteran is thinking about taking part in this research, what would you tell them?
Do it. A veteran will always talk to another veteran – it’s that ‘fellowship’ thing. I believe it would help them understand and to take away the fear and anxiety of treading into the comparative unknown – PTSD is a foe that soldiers can’t engage with a bullet.
It’s like climbing a rock face, daunting, but when you get to the top, and you will, because you have someone you trust holding the rope, the achievement feels incredible.
That dark rocky road to arrive at the seat of trauma, deal with it, live with it and then return to a better life is easier said than done. But I would say to them you will be supported throughout by professionals.
I would also relate my experience of CBT in dealing with my own trauma and make it clear that I would be happy to support them.
I want 3MDR to become like CBT and EMDR (Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) to be one of the key weapons in the arsenal to address PTSD.
I have been on the treadmill and was quick to compare the potential of 3MDR to my own CBT treatment – remember 38 two-hour sessions over about two years.
Reaching the traumatic event is a journey. 3MDR replicates that, along with the reality of images and music. It’s powerful and I think it will be very effective. It is vital that a trained therapist closely supports patients throughout the sessions and this is just what happens.
I believe the 3MDR trial will be a success and in the future I hope it will be made available to those who need it within a timeframe that’s right. And, eventually, not just for veterans, but for those who will benefit across the whole of society.
It’s a potential life saver.
Looking to the future (back to Kali)
Our study will determine if 3MDR can help British military veterans with PTSD who have not responded to the current first choice treatment for PTSD.
The study will take place at Cardiff University, which has a specially designed laboratory that is set up to deliver 3MDR. Forty-two veterans with PTSD will be invited to take part in the study. The veterans will be aged 18 or over and will not have benefitted from trauma focused psychological treatment before.
Their symptoms of PTSD, depression, anxiety and functioning will be assessed using standard measures and they will then be randomly allocated to receive either 3MDR immediately or after a delay of 12 weeks. At the end of treatment, and four weeks later, the assessment measures will be repeated.
The 3MDR will be delivered weekly over six weeks by experienced psychological therapists. An evaluation of the process of 3MDR treatment will also be undertaken by collecting information during the 3MDR sessions and by interviewing therapists and participants regarding their experiences.
We’re constantly working to understand more about PTSD so we can apply cutting edge research to practice. We’re hopeful for 3MDR to have a positive impact on the military veterans who participate and that their PTSD symptoms are significantly reduced.
If this is the case then we hope to test 3MDR against front line trauma focused psychological therapies such as EMDR, to see whether this approach is as effective or potentially even better. We’re very excited and hopeful for the future of 3MDR at Cardiff University, and I look forward to sharing our journey with you.