A few months ago, I wrote about how military veterans were forming large Second Life support groups, in large part as a way to help each other recover from post-traumatic stress disorder. (This in addition to the SL outreach by real world veteran organizations like Disabled American Veterans -- .pdf bulletin about their Second Life efforts here.) At the time it struck me as an awesome and undeniably valuable application of SL. After all, some vets are uncomfortable about discussing their PTSD in public for many reasons, and are often physically disabled and/or live in remote areas, making it logistically difficult for them to commune in person with fellow service people. In these cases and others, a virtual community of avatars embodied in a shared space seemed like an ideal solution.
That intuition was recently confirmed by an individual infinitely more qualified to speak on the subject: retired Marine Lt. Col. Jay Kopelman, who's now director of the vet support organization Freedom Is Not Free. In a speech at East Carolina University, which is experimenting with SL as a PSTD treatment platform, Kopelman addressed the subject of Second Life as a therapy tool: “I know Marines that say that Second Life is working when nothing else has," he said. Often SL is touted for various real world applications, but by people already vested in the metaverse, so some skepticism is warranted. (That includes, of course, me.) But I'm far more inclined to take at face value an endorsement from someone whose interest isn't virtual worlds per se, but in helping vets. And sad to say, as service members keep returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, often after multiple tours, it's an application we're likely to see more of, in coming years.