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  • Frontline Psych with Doc Bender: Time for a Mental Health Checkup

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    U.S. Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Prentice Colter

    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.

    When was the last time you had a mental health checkup? As we near the end of Mental Health Awareness Month, take a few minutes to assess your mental well-being. Being mentally healthy is not an all-or-nothing state; there are degrees of mental fitness. Psychologists use the Global Assessment of Functioning, a scale from 1 to 100, to rate a person’s overall mental health. This is a useful tool that ties together all aspects of a person’s life to see how a person is doing from a psychological perspective. You can do the same for yourself — look at different aspects of your life to see what parts are giving you satisfaction or stress. You may be able to expand the areas of your life that are fulfilling (time with friends, hobbies, etc.) and better manage the areas causing you stress or sadness (stressful job, friends who bring you down, etc.).

  • Are You inTransition?

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    U.S. Army photo by Phil Sussman

    “Put me in coach … I’m ready to play!” In sports, that statement shows a player’s determination to succeed. The same could be said for service members who voluntarily access inTransition, a coaching program that helps those being treated for psychological concerns transition between behavioral health care providers or systems as a result of a change in their service status.

    Such transitions can pose challenges and create uncertainties for the service member under treatment, sometimes resulting in a retreat from care or behavioral health setbacks. InTransition coaches work one-on-one with service members and veterans to ensure continuity of care and help them feel comfortable with and prepared for a change to a new provider.

  • Memorial Day: Not Just Another 3-Day Weekend

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    U.S. Army photo

    Last month I was reminded of the vital role resilience plays in our lives and just how important a slight variation in perspective or attitude can be. DCoE was asked to offer some resources on different ways families can cope with deployments that would be used as a part of a larger media article. This type of media query was not new by any means, but the more I learned about the story the more it struck a chord with me.

    The article was about a unique display of resilience and one way a Navy spouse was helping her and her family cope with her husband’s 13-month deployment. She had recognized that of all the normal daily routines that would continue over the next year without her husband, dinnertime would be the most difficult. The empty chair at the dinner table would be a constant reminder of his absence. Instead of “facing the empty chair at dinnertime” she decided to invite someone new to dinner once a week to “sit in his place.”

  • Celebrate Better Sleep Month — With Better Sleep!

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    Airmen sleep in cots at Aviano Air Base, Italy, while supporting Operation Odyssey Dawn. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Tierney P. Wilson)

    Most of us have a few mornings where we wished we had slept better the night before. Trouble falling and/or staying asleep not only makes you feel lethargic the next day, it can cause psychological issues if sleep problems persist and are left ignored. Sleep problems can affect everyone, but they can particularly impact the military community as post-combat concerns, such as flashbacks, hypervigilance and reintegration stress can all interrupt sleep.

    May is Better Sleep Month, and there’s never been a better time to learn how to sleep better. We asked Dr. Anthony Panettiere, National Intrepid Center of Excellence neurology and sleep medicine physician, how to sleep better and be mentally fit to take on the next day. He suggests:

    • Keep a routine. Try to wake up at the same time each day in bright light, but only go to bed when fully sleepy. Dim the lights 60 minutes before your desired bedtime to promote the release of melatonin, your brain's natural sleep hormone.
  • 6 Tips for Families Coping with Post-Deployment Stress

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    Spc. Jonathan Happel and his wife, Cira, discuss family issues during the Strong Bonds marriage retreat in Ko Olina, Hawaii. (U.S. Army photo)

    This Military Pathways blog post identifies the following six guiding principles from Rebecca Townsend, a military family therapist, who recently shared her thoughts with Military Pathways on what military families can do to cope with post-deployment stress or a family member with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

    1. You can experience secondary trauma. While service members with PTSD may feel hypervigilant and edgy, their stress can rub off on family members. Townsend points out that spouses will often walk on egg shells wondering what will set their spouses off that they themselves become hypervigilant. “They anticipate what might be a trigger and how they will react,” Townsend said. “How their spouse reacts one day may differ from how they act another day.”

  • ‘Labels’

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    Official poster for Armed Forces Day 1951 highlights the “Defenders of Freedom.”

    Tomorrow our country will celebrate its 62nd Armed Forces Day. Armed Forces Day was created to signify the unification of the individual services thereby creating the Department of Defense. The president also wanted it to be a day for American citizens to come together to honor and thank our armed forces and “the millions of veterans who have returned to civilian pursuits” for their service to our country. Air Force Gen. Nathan Twining, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also described it as an opportunity to expand the public’s understanding of the military and the role of the military in civilian life.

    Armed Forces Day is also the day that the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS), my alma mater, holds its annual commencement. On Armed Forces Day 24 years ago, I was privileged and honored to become a Navy physician. Since its first class graduated in 1980, USUHS has produced thousands of physicians, nurses and scientists who have gone on to have long and distinguished careers caring for our service members and their families.