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Coping with PTSD

Healing Through Sailing

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Posted on: 
25 Apr 2018
Coping with PTSD

“The Boat is Sailing” is a unique programme that helps people with PTSD by using sailing as a rehabilitative and therapeutic tool. It was developed by Yoav Ben David, a former POW from 1973, who personally dealt with PTSD. For many years Ben David searched for a way to cope, and he discovered that sailing in a team can boost the rehabilitation process. “The participants come to know that their disability need not deny them exhilarating new experiences in unfamiliar settings, such as in the open sea,” Ben David says. “They learn to take responsibility for others and to deal with challenging situations as well as working in a team. They are also encouraged to share their traumatic experience among programme participants.”

A research study conducted by the Ministry of Defence in 2009 showed that this programme rehabilitates individuals with PTSD much better than any other traditional treatment. “The participants find a reason to live, wake up in the morning, engage in work and interact with other people. It also gives them the motivation to integrate into life and society again,” says Ben David. Sixty participants meet once a week in six small groups for sailing sessions to learn about the sea, symptoms of PTSD, and sailing skills. Participants can later become counsellors and guide new members in this activity.

One of the participants, Yotam, experienced a terrorist attack that killed many soldiers at the bus stop where he was waiting with many others to return to his base. Yotam doesn’t recall much, except that someone stopped him when he walked down the road drenched in blood. Shock and trauma affected him so deeply that he withdrew from all social contact and was unable to cope with daily life. Very slowly, through the "Boat is Sailing" programme, he began to find a way to deal with his PTSD. His small group gives him the strength to carry on despite the ongoing emotional challenges that he continues to face every day.


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