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  • DCoE Monthly Wrap-Up: Stories you may have missed

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    Below is a round-up of this month’s news highlights, resources and upcoming events in case you missed them. Catch up on one veteran’s conversation with President Barack Obama, stress-therapy techniques to manage post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep hygiene and how to register for the popular Trauma Spectrum Conference, scheduled for Dec. 8-9, 2011.

    Veteran Demos Mobile App for President
    “He took my phone and played with the app – moving the sliders around, checking it out. And then he saw my most recent graph and stopped. I had charted some bad days previously, and I think it got his attention,” said Army veteran Brian Sullivan, referring to the National Center for Telehealth and Technology’s T2 MoodTracker mobile application and his unexpected sit-down lunch with President Barack Obama in Hampton, Va.

  • Acupuncture Treatment Helps Ease TBI Symptoms In Theater

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    Retired Col. Richard Niemtzow applies an acupuncture needle into Master Sgt. Michelle Tancrede’s ear during a battlefield acupuncture course. (U.S. Air Force photo by Bahja J. Jones)

    In a clinic at Joint Base Andrews, Md., military health care providers practiced treatments to relieve head pain. Instead of writing a prescription for medication, providers learned to use a treatment rooted in traditional Chinese medicine and practiced for thousands of years: acupuncture. Retired Air Force Col. Richard C. Niemtzow, former president of American Academy of Medical Acupuncture, trained providers to locate pressure points within the ears and insert small needles on designated points inside them.

    I spoke with Niemtzow about battlefield acupuncture, a technique that has advanced from the doctor’s office to the battlefield, treating service members with mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) quickly and efficiently. The practice can interrupt the process of pain in the central nervous system.

    “Like western medicine, it’s another tool in a medical bag,” Niemtzow said.

  • Is Stress Therapy Going to the Dogs?

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    Retired Army Capt. Adrian Veseth-Nelson and Thor, who he credits with saving his life while coping with severe stress. (Photo by Diana Veseth-Nelson)

    “I looked at Thor who was to be euthanized that day at the kill shelter. He was quiet and calm and looked like he didn’t belong with the other, more engaged dogs, and I thought, ‘I feel the same way.’”

    That day, retired Army Capt. Adrian Veseth-Nelson not only saved Thor’s life, but claims Thor saved his. I recently heard Veseth-Nelson talk about the dog during a Military Pathways® webinar “Canine Companions and Your Emotional Health.” Although he didn’t know it when he met Thor, Veseth-Nelson’s anger, sleeplessness and restless mind were symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He credits his companion dog with forcing him to engage in life while distracting him from his darker inclinations.

    Veseth-Nelson’s experience with Thor is being echoed by other vets with PTSD who credit a dog for their improved condition. Now he and his wife, Diana, believe they’re helping save veterans’ lives with Battle Buddies, their mentoring and canine placement program for veterans with PTSD.

    Battle Buddies joins a growing movement of canine-assisted therapy programs in the country. Paws for Purple Hearts mimics the military’s peer support tradition by teaching veterans with PTSD how to train service dogs for other veterans with physical and psychological health concerns. In the process, trainers must face their own issues, such as hyper-vigilance and emotional numbness, to effectively train the animals. Many recovering service members at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center participate in the program as part of an internship.

  • Holistic Therapies Help Manage Stress at Home

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    Robin Carnes

    Robin Carnes teaches at the week-long Significant Others Support Group offered through Deployment Health Clinical Center (DHCC), a component center of Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. The group encourages the use of mind-body practices including iRest, breathing practices and Qi Gong, to help relax and promote mental and physical health.

    Military significant others who face unique challenges may find relief from complementary practices they can do in the comfort of their own homes to manage stress.

    These practices, tested by participants in our Significant Others Support Group, can help people become more aware of their bodies, manage their moods, have greater mental focus and problem-solve, even when there’s a lot going on. Most importantly, many group participants continue these practices at home well after graduating the DHCC program.

    iRest, breathing practices and Qi Gong are three simple, easy-to-learn, self-care practices that most anyone can do in just a few minutes.

  • Frontline Psych with Doc Bender: The Importance of Sleep

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    Doc Bender on top of the Ziggurat of Ur in Southern Iraq, in February 2009.

    Dr. James Bender is a former Army psychologist who deployed to Iraq as the brigade psychologist for the 1st Cavalry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Hood, Texas. During his deployment, he traveled through Southern Iraq, from Basra to Baghdad. He writes a monthly post for the DCoE Blog on psychological health concerns related to deployment and being in the military.

    I’m writing about a topic this month many of us are familiar with – sleep deprivation. While many people consider it to be little more than an annoyance and accept it as a fact of life, it’s actually a serious problem. Lack of sleep, either short-term (acute, or staying up several hours past normal bedtime) or long-term (chronic, or getting less sleep than you should for several days or longer) negatively affects physical and mental performance. Several studies imply that severe lack of sleep can even be fatal in humans.

    Here are a few more facts about sleep to be aware of:

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  • Feeling Depressed? Take a Free Assessment

    Clinicians discuss some of the common symptoms that a person who is experiencing depression may have. (Military Pathways video)