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  • Frontline Psych with Doc Bender: What Does PTSD Mean To You?

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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.

    Hi. June 27 is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day. It’s designed to promote awareness and dialogue about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Few of the only good things to come out of war are the tremendous advances in the science of treating illness and injuries, both physical and psychological. These advances are due partly to more resources and attention being paid to combat-related injuries and partly due to health care providers, unfortunately, getting a lot more practice in treating these conditions.


  • PTSD Awareness Day is a Reminder to Learn, Get Help and Help Others

    "I am a medic. I should be saving lives not dreaming of killing people. I knew something was wrong then."
    — Participant in the U.S. Army Garrison Bamberg’s Behavioral Health Combat Stress group

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    June 27 is the nation’s official day to focus attention on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Last year, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution naming June 27 National Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day to promote dialogue about this prevalent condition and help people realize that there are resources and effective treatments available to address PTSD.

    U.S. Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND), authored the resolution and at the time said that the wounds of PTSD may not be visible but they are still real. He was inspired by the efforts of the North Dakota Army National Guard to bring attention to the disorder and its effect on one of its unit members, Staff Sgt. Joe Biel, who sadly, took his own life following two tours in Iraq. June 27 was Biel’s birthday.

  • Summer Fun: Safety Tips We Can All Use

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    A soldier takes a drink of water from her canteen during a break. U.S. Army photo by Crystal Lewis Brown

    When we think of summer, thoughts of vacations, barbecues and swimming pools may come to mind. Injuries usually aren’t high on the list, but summertime is when they happen most.

    For many, the season’s warmer temperatures and extra daylight mean beach trips, boat rides, outdoors sports, cross-country trips and gardening. While all are fun, it’s important we pay attention to recommended safety precautions for each activity for our own health and for those around us.

    Below are some basic safety reminders for our military and health care communities to practice:

    • Sun safety: We’re all at risk for skin damage from the sun. Shaded areas are good places to be especially during midday hours. Apply and re-apply sunscreen with a sun protective factor (SPF) of 15 or higher—and if you are using lotion from last year, check the expiration date as most only protect for about three years. Need help choosing a sunscreen that’s right for you? The Mayo Clinic offers some great tips for making a good choice. Be sure to wear appropriate clothing and hats to protect exposed skin, including sunglasses to protect your eyes.
  • Mission Readiness: A ‘Total Force Fitness’ Approach

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    Army Maj. Todd Yosick, DCoE deputy director for Resilience and Prevention directorate

    I recently had the distinct privilege to speak at the Marine Command and General Staff College at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., to discuss Total Force Fitness, an initiative from Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In the Chairman’s Guidance for 2011, Mullen states, “I will issue instructions that we adopt ‘Total Force Fitness,’ – a methodology for changing the way we understand, assess and maintain our people’s well-being and sustaining our ability to carry out our missions.” DCoE has been working directly with the Joint Chiefs of Staff in a supportive role for several of the domains of Total Force Fitness.

    The past decade of operations, and the persistent conflicts we now face, presents challenges to service members unlike any other time in our nation’s history. Exposure to combat, operational stress and the demands of the modern battlefield requires leaders with the training and ability to both understand and mitigate the complex demands military operations place on our service members, their families, their units, and our extended military community. Mind-body strength and resilience will continue to be an important requirement for leadership to understand and instill at all levels as we move forward into the next decade.

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  • My Discovery of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

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    Marsh with husband, recently promoted, Air Force Master Sgt. Chuck Marsh. (Courtesy photo)

    If it was a snake, it would have bit me

    The phrase, “can’t see the forest through the trees” seems to describe a bout of “cluelessness” I recently experienced. Or perhaps, the more common “if it was a snake, it would have bit me” is truly the best fit. Either way, the fact is I work at Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) with top subject matter experts in the field of traumatic brain injury and I couldn’t even recognize that the weird symptoms I had, after a recent good bump to the head, were symptoms of a concussion. How’s that for irony?

    Put a name to the pain

    In March, I spent about 10 days of feeling a little disoriented and helpless—having no clue as to what was going on with me. After a few conversations with a variety of military health care providers, to include an emergency room resident and former chief of neurology, I was finally able to “put a name to the pain.” It turns out, I had sustained a mild TBI as a result of a recent fall (hardwood floor, meet Heather’s face…it wasn’t a pleasant introduction and resulted in five stitches and a severely bruised ego).

  • Mental Health Help, Tools, Resources for Military Community

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    U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Anthony Sanchelli

    For service members and their families, knowing how to get help for mental health, what tools and resources are available, and how to access them can be daunting. A recent bloggers roundtable hosted by DoDLive identified some of the psychological health tools and resources available to support members of the entire military community. The roundtable featured Air Force Col. Christopher Robinson, DCoE deputy director for psychological health; Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Meg Krause, Real Warriors Campaign volunteer; and Master Sgt. Stephanie Weaver, National Guard Counterdrug liaison, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA).

    “There’s absolutely no shame in seeking help,” said Krause. She shared her story of seeking care for post-traumatic stress disorder after returning from a tour in Iraq, which she described as a “life-changing experience.” Krause discussed what tools and resources helped her recover and later on support other fellow soldiers. You can watch her video profile on the Real Warriors Campaign website.