Surf therapy is being used to help mend broken soldiers returning from war zones with crippling PTSD as well as children suffering conditions like attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism.
It is a phenomenon not fully understood by science but the latest research is aimed at understanding why spending time in the surf is bringing profound relief without the side effects of drugs.
Digger James Milliss is haunted by the night an IED ripped apart his platoon while on a covert mission.
“At 12 past 1 that morning Michael Fussell was killed by an IED blast,” James said
“Just an enormous explosion, enormous explosion. I knew exactly what had happened, what occurred.”
“He had some highly sensitive gear with him. The ability to talk to aircraft and so on, so we just did our job, it was just, our job was to get all that equipment off Mick and account for it and, you know, place him into a body bag.”
He returned to Australia in 2009, but life wasn’t the same.
“I was mountain biking in the bush by myself um just enjoying being out by myself, exercising, and I heard a song come on which started with like machine gun fire, and before I knew it I’d dumped the mountain bike and I’d crawled up behind a tree.”
Clinical neuro psychologsist Justin Feinstein is attempting to reverse the symptoms of crippling anxiety disorders based on this theory, using only a sensory deprivation — or floating — tank.
“You cannot even imagine the pain and the suffering that somebody who’s been indelibly changed by a trauma has to endure. I would say that you know for them they can no longer have a moment of peace.”
“And what we’re finding is the emotional circuitry of the brain seems to be in a state of perpetual fear and anxiety.”
In a sensory deprivation tank the room is vibration and soundproof and the pool is filled with warm salt water for floatation.
“What we’re finding is it allows the brain to get a much needed respite from reality it disconnects from all of the things out here and really reconnects to what’s happening inside your body and for people in a perpetual state of stress,” Dr Feinstein said.
“Any activity that will bring you out of that mind chatter and bring you back to the present moment is going to profoundly affect you.”
Reporter Denham Hitchcock was the subject of a world-first experiment to measure brain waves while surfing using a device attached to his forehead to demonstrate the changes that occur while in the ocean.
Eleven-time world surfing champion Kelly Slater is an ambassador for surfing therapy and he reveals why he also believes the power the ocean can be harnessed to conquer many ills.
He has dedicated his time to helping US veterans by using surf therapy.
“Surfing was kind of my solace, it was the thing that made me the happiest,” Kelly said.
“To have someone tell you this is changing my life, that’s pretty awesome.” To read more click here.
The 17th International Mental Health Conference will be held at the brand new Sea World Resort Conference Centre on the Gold Coast, QLD from the 11 -12 August 2016.
You are invited to join us as we address the conference theme “Guiding the Change” across the broad spectrum of mental disorders. To register for the conference CLICK HERE.