A local charity dedicated to helping victims of posttraumatic stress disorder through horse psychotherapy received some good news that those they help are now being recognized in Washington.
Miles of Smiles Foundation president Keith Doxie and his wife, Gail, were happy at the news that an initiative was passed by the United States Senate to raise awareness to the issues of PTSD to designate June 27 as National PTSD Awareness Day.
In addition, June was designated as PTSD Awareness Month by the National Center for PTSD .
For the Miles of Smiles Foundation, which operates Miles Ranch, a not-for-profit 20-acre horse ranch on Gottarde Road in North Fort Myers and is dedicated to equine-assisted psychotherapy for military veterans, the hope is that more attention is given to the disorder and those who have it.
"It's a way to get PTSD in the news. It's been in the news a lot after this VA thing. We've been able to see the veterans on a weekly basis and we're pleased with the progress we've seen," Keith said. "People are starting to realize this is real. It's a wound, just not a visual one."
The foundation was founded in 2007 and is named in honor of son Miles Doxie, who died on May 25, 2006, at age 17, just two weeks before he was to join the U.S. Air Force.
The Doxies have since dedicated their lives to assisting veterans who have PTSD through equine assisted psychotherapy and equine assisted learning programs.
The horses are used as a tool to treat the patient in a non-traditional setting, unlike the patient-specialist, Q&A setting in an office.
"They're outdoors, where the veterans want to be. It's relaxing and it's not like it's at a person's house," Keith said.
The patient forms a bond with a chosen horse and, based on his or her interactions with the horse, specialists can evaluate the patient and start treatment.
Treatment to veterans is free. Counseling in grief and loss, anxiety and depression is also available to the public on a limited basis.
According to the NCPTSD, PTSD is an anxiety disorder resulting from exposure to a single traumatic event or more, such as sexual or physical assault, natural or man-made disaster, and war-related combat stress.
Symptoms of PTSD include persistent intrusive thoughts and distressing dreams about the event, triggered emotional responses to reminders of the trauma, efforts to avoid thinking or talking about the trauma, and persistent hyper vigilance for cues that indicate additional danger or trauma re-occurring.
The Miles Ranch relies on donations received through fundraising events year round.
One is its fence post program where, by donating $75, a donor's name is affixed on a brass plaque to a fence post at the ranch.
The donation covers the cost of an eight-foot section of fence.
Keith said he would like to expand the reach his ranch has.
"We have two horses on site and we'd like to bring in eight others. For that we need to have the fencing and we'll be able to see more veterans," Keith said.
To learn more about Miles of Smiles and the ranch, visit online at www.milesranch.org.