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  • Job Searching Tips for the Veteran with PTSD or TBI

    Nathan Ainspan

    Courtesy of Nathan Ainspan

    I won’t lie to you. Looking for a job in the current economic climate is hard. Finding an employer who understands your military background can be tough. And, thanks to misinformation and misperceptions about mental health concerns, many employers are hesitant, if not scared, to hire veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injury (TBI). So, if you’re a veteran looking for work right now, it may seem like the deck is stacked against you. Here are five suggestions to help you improve your odds and transition into a civilian job.

    1. Figure Out What You Are Able To Do
    Having PTSD or TBI may prevent you from carrying out certain duties on the job — but that doesn’t diminish what you are capable of doing. Take inventory of your skills, what you can and can no longer do. But, don’t be too quick to limit yourself — many accommodations exist that will allow you to perform tasks you might not have thought possible. For ideas and information on accommodations, visit the Job Accommodation Network. Finding out what you can do will help you figure out what you want to do.

  • Eat, Drink and Be Merry… Responsibly

    Family beside a Christmas tree
    U.S. Marine Corps photo

    Family dinners, work parties, happy hours, New Year’s festivities and many other social gatherings are prevalent during this time of year. Typically a joyous time with family and friends, these activities often lead to overeating and indulging ourselves in unhealthy foods we normally would resist, as well as drinking more frequently and potentially abusively.

    Whether the drinking environment is centered on grandma’s brandy eggnog or other holiday alcoholic drinks, we live in a culture that tells us it’s OK to drink during the holidays. Throughout the season, there is an increase in availability of alcohol at parties and family functions we attend, which may make it more difficult for those trying to avoid drinking too much. Additionally, many holiday drinks are mixed, making the strength of the alcohol content relatively unknown. A drink like this is often stronger than a standard drink, and can get the unwary drinker into trouble.

  • How to Help Restore a Sense of Safety in the Aftermath of Tragic Events


    Photo Courtesy of Naval Medical Center Portsmouth

    On behalf of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE), our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims’ families of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, their loved ones and the entire community of Newtown, Conn.

    The mass shooting in Connecticut has left an entire nation with an overwhelming sense of uncertainty, struggling to understand and mourn the loss of innocence by so many. During this painful time, as we struggle with the loss and trauma of Dec. 14, it’s important to connect with others as much as possible and not isolate ourselves.

    As adults, parents, loved ones and community members, it’s understandably difficult to cope with tragic events of this nature. Knowing how to support and communicate with the children and teenagers in our lives who are also grappling with the same feelings and unanswered questions can pose additional challenges.

  • Encourage Healing After a Disaster

    A United States flag flies in the background amidst debris and destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy in Toms River N.J.

    A United States flag flies in the background amidst debris and destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy in Toms River N.J., Nov. 3, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Nate Hauser)

    Exposure to natural disasters — hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, fires — and manmade disasters — shootings, workplace violence, and war — may place a tremendous burden on our resilience, self-esteem and ability to survive a disaster.

    Psychology provides us with an understanding of how we might cope with some of these feelings. For example, it’s normal to experience a wide range of emotional, behavioral and psychological reactions to trauma. Feelings of helplessness, anger, fear and sadness are expected, and allowing yourself to experience these feelings is necessary for healing. Over time, these feelings will begin to fade, but keep in mind grieving is a process that may take months or a year, or more to work through. It isn’t something that can be rushed. However, there are things you and your loved ones can do to encourage healing:

  • Frontline Psych with Doc Bender: PTSD and Holidays – Plan For It

    Happy Holidays, Peace on Earth, Joy to the World - Holiday celebrations can be challenging for returning service members and veterans diagnosed with PTSD. Planning and understanding some of the challenges can help bring peace, joy and happiness to your family this holiday season.

    Dr. James Bender is a former Army psychologist who deployed to Iraq as the brigade psychologist for the 1st Cavalry Division 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.

    For most of us, the holidays are parties and food, and a happy time when we reconnect with faith, family and friends. For some, it’s a time of heightened stress. Feeling some stress during the holiday season is normal — keeping track of everyone’s wish lists is one example. However, for combat veterans who recently returned from theater or those diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the holidays can bring special challenges for both them and their family.

  • DCoE Director Shares Reserve Component Birthday Message

    Soldiers in barracks

    Soldiers of the 2-113th Infantry Battalion, New Jersey Army National Guard, relax between missions at the National Guard Armory in Riverdale, N.J., Nov. 5, 2012. More than 2,000 soldiers and airmen from the New Jersey National Guard have been mobilized in response to Hurricane Sandy. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen)

    On behalf of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, I would like to wish the National Guard a happy 376th birthday. I would like to also wish the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Air Force reserves a belated happy birthday.

    The National Guard has a rich history dating back to its formation in 1636, when it was established by the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In comparison, the five individual branches of the reserves were established during the 20th century, as far back as 1908 with the Army reserves and as recent as 1948 with the Air Force reserves. We often group the National Guard and reserves together and collectively refer to them as the reserve components. But, even though their missions may seem comparable, the National Guard and reserves have very distinct roles supporting our country.

    In the past they were called “weekend warriors,” but today this is far from true — they are a vital part of our military and the security of our nation. Guardsmen and reservists have shouldered a large burden during the last 12 years and they face unique challenges often overlooked or taken for granted. Approximately 78 percent of the 1.1 million service members in the reserve components have been activated since 9/11, comprising close to 50 percent of our total military force.

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