When a soldier in the armed forces retires and becomes a veteran, one would think the war stops there for them. They come home to their families or loved ones and live a normal life. Right? One would hope this would be the case for somebody that fought to preserve the liberties and freedoms we enjoy today. This is not always the case though. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, in 2014, an average of 20 veterans committed suicide a day. So why is this happening?
According to the RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research in their 2008 study called, Invisible Wounds of War, 20 percent of veterans who served in Afghanistan or Iraq suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression. This study also reports that only 30 percent of these veterans with PTSD or major depression seek help.
“A normal human response if you have been through something that could have ended your life is you don’t want to think about it,” said Ken Eidinger, a former U.S. Army Sergeant, “So you just stop thinking about it.”
Eidinger is a 51-year-old veteran who knows the struggle of dealing with repressed memories from his military days. Eidinger explained that the Army trains soldiers to be self-sufficient. He mentioned that repressing those feelings though, will only lead to them resurfacing at another time. So he found a new way for veterans to combat PTSD and major depression. It’s called Drum Circles for Veterans. Eidinger started this program in 2010 to help struggling veterans in need.
Eidinger said he has always had a passion for music and has been playing the drums for 40 years. After he left the Army in 1990, he decided to become a private percussion instructor. In 2010, Eidinger mentioned how he stumbled across an article that explained the therapeutic value of community drumming. The article explained how it could be used to boost mental health in senior citizens, troubled youth, and veterans. Once he saw veterans included, the idea for DC4V popped into his head. He began to do some more research to see if there was any type of drum therapy for veterans in the Philadelphia area. Eidinger explained how he found some similar veterans programs, but not one that is specifically geared towards drum circles.
Eidinger said he decided to start studying the science behind drum circles and came across Dr. Barry Bittman, who is a neurologist and CEO of Yamaha Music and Wellness Institute. Eidinger explained how Dr. Bittman conducted a study on the therapeutic effects of drum circles called, Composite Effects of Group Drumming Music Therapy on Modulation NeuroEndocrine-Immune Parameters in Normal Subjects. The study found that drum circles can improve immune response, sleep, mood, memory and much more.
“I knew I had to set up this program after seeing those kinda results,” said Eidinger.
He set up DC4V to be a free therapeutic program veterans, which gives them an alternative form of treatment as PTSD and major depression can be costly. Veterans who suffer from both PTSD and a TDI (Traumatic Brain Injury), will have to spend close to $14,000 for treatment in the first year, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
“If I told you to tell me how mad you were after your car got keyed? You would scream, yell, and cuss. But what if I told you to play into the drum how you feel? You’d beat the snot out of the thing without having to say a word,” said Eidinger, explaining how drum circles are a different way to channel your emotions. “That is more visceral and more real because it comes from a deeper and darker place.”
Eidinger said he utilizes the drum circle techniques found on Remo.com. Since 1957, Remo Inc. has specialized in drumming innovation. Eidinger uses these techniques at his drum circle he holds for Veterans once a month at Malelani Cafe in Northwest Philadelphia. He mentioned he has switched venues a couple times, which makes it difficult to have regulars in the class.
“It’s all about location. Look at this place. Even though its small, it’s a cozy little performance space with a great vibe,”said Eidinger.
He also explained how it is hard to get the word out to veterans who could really use this drum circle as a form of treatment. Eidinger he has tried to get DC4L into the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, but has hit a brick wall. He has spoken to a few therapists within the VA, but they are not at liberty to bring in outside vendors or contractors to run a program like DC4V.
“I would have to land a federal contract to come in there and do a therapeutic program,” said Eidinger.” The problem is I am not a therapist.”
Eidinger has even set up an online platform at You.Caring.com, where people can donate money to DC4V. He said this money goes to helping veteran related causes and expanding the drum circle. Eidinger explained how he is trying to grow this business and spread the word, because he does not think many veterans or people know about his program. Despite this, he refuses to quit because his passion for music and the veterans trumps all.
“If your heart beats, you’re a drummer”-Ken Eidinger