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  • Play Shares Stories of Service, Coping and Loss

    “Telling: Baltimore” features seven members of the military community trained to tell their personal stories. The Telling Project teaches service members, veterans and their families how to express their experiences on stage, and hosts shows nationwide. (The Telling Project video)

    One of the most moving moments of last week’s performance of the play “Telling: Baltimore” at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis, Md., occurred when Tracy Miller was on stage, taking a deep breath before telling her story. Not a fable or lighthearted tale—it was about the time she found out her son, 22-year-old Marine Cpl. Nicholas Ziolkowski, lost his life in 2004. She opened the front door to find two solemn Marines in dress blue uniform—what she had dreaded since he left for Iraq.

    She remained composed while she spoke to the audience; she was taught to. Miller was one of seven performers in the play, which featured veterans and families trained to tell their military experiences: preparation, deployments, combat, reintegration and for those who knew and loved “Nicky,” grief. The mission of the play is to connect civilians with these stories, since often the view from traditional media doesn’t embody real military life.

  • Frontline Psych with Doc Bender: 2012 Defense Authorization Act Puts Focus on Mental Health

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    Soldiers attend a forum on resilience at Camp Liberty, Iraq. The emotional and mental health training is designed to help soldiers, families and civilian employees cope with the rigors of Army life. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Molleigh Crotty)

    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.

    Hello. Last month, President Barack Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, a blueprint for how the government will manage this year’s defense budget. The bill contained several new provisions focusing on service members and their mental health.

    One provision provides that service members will receive a one-on-one evaluation/interview within 120 days of being deployed and a re-evaluation within 180 days of redeployment. Service members exposed to operational risk factors (direct combat, traumatic experiences, etc.) should receive at least two more evaluations within 30 months by a licensed mental health professional, such as a psychologist, psychiatrist or licensed social worker. These evaluations are meant to identify post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suicidal tendencies and other behavioral health conditions to determine which service members need additional care and treatment.

  • New Website Uses Videos to Help Military Families Stay Connected

    New Defense Department website,, provides military children a safe, fun, interactive place where they can build resilience and learn coping skills to help deal with the challenges of having a deployed family member. (National Center for Telehealth & Technology video)

    Meet the military families of, a new Defense Department website developed by the National Center for Telehealth and Technology (T2), a Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury center. Like all military families, they cope with the common challenges of a military lifestyle: deployments, transitions, worrying about mom or dad and communicating with their family. Watch how two families created unique ways to connect with each other and deployed loved ones and used their experiences to reach out to the military community.

    Sweet treats help pass the time

    When Xander, 7, and Avery, 6, missed their Navy dad while he was on tour in Iraq, their mom developed a tasty way to colorfully count down the days until he would be home: a jelly bean jar! For every day their dad was gone, they would get together, say a prayer, and eat their favorite jelly bean flavor (Xander’s was purple; Avery likes blue). Counting beans allowed their family to gather and talk about any concerns. Watch here.

  • DCoE Webinar Attendees Earn Education Credits

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    U.S. Army photo by Liana Mayo, 311th Signal Command

    Dr. Lolita O’Donnell is a registered nurse and has served DCoE since its establishment in November 2007.

    The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) monthly webinar series continues to be a success, and I’m excited to announce that starting this month, we’re adding a new benefit—the chance to attain continuing education units or continuing medical education credits.

    The January webinar, “Addressing Alcohol Misuse Among Service Members: The SBIRT Model,” scheduled for Thursday from 1 to 2:30 p.m. (EST), will examine a system-level approach to identify and treat people with drinking problems at the onset of risky or hazardous behavior (Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment model—SBIRT). To register or for more information about our webinars, please email:

  • You Celebrated New Year’s, Made Resolutions: Now What?

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    Left to right, Tim Bevins and Chris Richards, physical therapy technicians with Peak Performance Sports and Physical Therapy in Jacksonville, N.C., assist Staff Sgt. Curtis Fowler, a platoon sergeant with the Wounded Warrior Battalion-East, with a therapy exercise to treat a traumatic brain injury. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Katie Mathison)

    Now that the holidays are over, some of us may be struggling with resolutions—coming to terms with last year’s and already frustrated with this year’s. However, the best time to evaluate or assess last year’s resolutions was last year. The idea is that at New Year’s we start new, and hopefully with lessons learned from previous years. Based on my clinical experiences, I’ve found that many people find dealing with resolutions a bit frustrating; some may feel guilty when their goals aren’t met, and others may give up completely before long. Not surprising, keeping up with resolutions can be both challenging and rewarding. To be successful, people need a meaningful support resource—one that coaches, encourages, offers hope and lifts us up when we fall.

    The concept of recovery has two similar, guiding principles—that of encouragement and hope. Recovery services are designed to support individuals seeking to overcome a variety of emotional, behavioral, and physical injuries, which exist on a continuum of improved health and wellness, and are integral to effective treatment outcomes and successful reintegration. Regardless of whether you’re experiencing an emotional, behavioral or physical problem, being continuously encouraged, hopeful and believing that it’s possible to regain a meaningful life, is an invaluable and powerful medicine.

  • How to Find Support Resources in Your Community

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    U.S. Army photo by Cheryl Harrison

    Hopefully you have heard the advice “reach out if you need help,” but would you know where to go to find it? Real Warriors Campaign’s latest article, “Finding Support Resources in Your Community,” offers a quick overview of several resources and support services offered locally and nationally to help you with reintegration challenges, employment, housing, counseling, education assistance and more.

    For those dealing with traumatic brain injury or psychological health concerns, including combat stress and depression, connect with the DCoE Outreach Center. Looking for information at night or during the wee hours of the morning? The center is available 24/7 to help everyone—military or civilian. Trained health resource consultants can provide information and resources on topics including: