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  • Education, Collaboration Remain Focus of 2014 DCoE Webinar Series

    Two soldiers work on computers.
    U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Mike Alberts

    Webinars can be great educational and motivational tools that accommodate large audiences while retaining a small-group learning atmosphere. Many businesses and organizations use webinars to share information with their audiences, build relationships and spur discussion. The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) hosts monthly webinars to encourage health care providers, service members and families to learn about relevant and timely information on topics related to psychological health and traumatic brain injury (TBI).

    Let’s look at some other features of the DCoE webinar series. Presenters are subject matter experts from leading military medical institutions around the country. Polling questions are used throughout the presentation, followed by a question and answer session where participants can dialogue with the experts. Most webinars offer health care providers continuing education credit through an accredited university. Once concluded, audio podcasts and transcripts are available online, along with presentation slides and resources connected to the webinar topic.

  • Degree, Duration of Symptoms Identify PTSD

    Two soldiers climb stairs while on patrol.
    Soldiers often have delayed reactions to traumatic events that may take years to manifest. Pictured here are soldiers on an operation in Dora, Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Elisha Dawkins)

    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. In his current position, Bender is a subject matter expert for the PTSD Clinical Pathways Program, which is developing a pathway to treat PTSD that will be implemented across the Defense Department.

    It’s easy to confuse post-traumatic stress (PTS) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In addition to sharing similar names, there’s considerable overlap in symptoms between the two conditions. Both PTS and PTSD are associated with feeling fearful and/or nervous, avoiding the activity or place associated with the traumatic event, and nightmares. However, there are significant differences in symptom intensity, duration and treatment.

    Post-traumatic Stress

    PTS is a common, normal and often adaptive response to experiencing a traumatic or stressful event. Common occurrences, like car accidents, can trigger PTS, as well as more unusual events, like military combat or kidnapping.

  • 4 Clinical Support Tools for Concussion Management

    Military provider gives eye exam to service member
    U.S. Army photo by Jennifer Clampet

    Consider this scenario: A patient comes in complaining of vision problems following a concussion, also known as mild traumatic brain injury (TBI). Do you know the key questions to ask this patient to determine whether further eye or vision evaluation and care is needed?

    Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC) offers primary care providers clinical support tools to assess and manage patients with concussion. For example, a quick reference card on visual dysfunction addresses “red flag” symptoms that need urgent referral to appropriate specialists, and “yellow flag” symptoms that are considered less severe but still require a referral to an eye specialist or neurologist.

  • How I Overcame the Stigma of Mental Illness and Saved My Life

    Because of the stigma associated with seeking mental health care, many service members are reluctant to seek treatment. Navy Capt. Todd Kruder understands this firsthand. Before receiving treatment, Kruder suffered from severe depression and suicidal thoughts. In this video, Kruder discusses how he overcame the stigma of mental illness and his journey toward recovery, which offers hope to those who may be suffering in silence that their lives can improve.

  • Spouse Deployed? Keep Holiday Stress at Bay

    A military spouse and her son watch as her husband prepares to deploy
    Amanda Palmer and her son Brayden watch as her husband, Staff Sgt. Michael Palmer, takes off for a deployment at Buckley Air Force Base, Colo. (Colorado Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Wolfram M. Stumpf)

    Below is a blog post from the Navy Operational Stress Control’s “Navigating Stress” blog, written by Elizabeth Winters, a Navy wife and stay-at-home mom of three.

    The holidays are fast approaching, and even when not dealing with the heightened emotions and stress of a deployment, holidays are rarely what we think of as “stress-free.” Add in the pressure to keep the holidays special while your loved one is absent, and you can very easily become overwhelmed. It’s vital to take active measures to avoid overworking yourself. For me, it comes down to three things: priorities, traditions and efficiency.

    Before the holiday season is in full swing, sit down and decide what’s important to you and your family. Don’t feel badly about declining invitations. Friends and family will understand if you need to pare down social obligations. Eliminate gatherings that only add stress to your schedule and choose your priorities. Let go of everything else.

  • Don’t Let TBI Keep You Out of the Classroom

    First day of school jitters exist for everyone. There are new classmates to meet, new subjects to learn, and new teachers to impress. But what about the service members or veterans beginning or returning to academic life after sustaining a traumatic brain injury (TBI)? For them, whether it’s a community college, university or vocational school, getting settled into a classroom can pose additional challenges. Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC) recently released a free, electronic resource to help service members and veterans with a brain injury manage their educational journey. The “Back to School: Guide to Academic Success After Traumatic Brain Injury” helps individuals better understand their own problem-solving abilities and teaches new skills to overcome obstacles in school and life.

    Below, Lt. Cmdr. Cathleen Shields, DVBIC education director, discusses the product and addresses its goals and why it was developed.

    Q. Why was it important to create the “Back to School” product?
    More and more service members are returning home and going back to school, either to improve current skills or get back into the workforce. DVBIC developed the guide to empower service members who have sustained a TBI to succeed in this transition. The online resource will help them navigate campus life, manage ongoing symptoms, learn strategies for success, transition smoothly to a civilian setting, and advocate for themselves.