Skip Navigation

Home  >  DCoE Blog

DCoE Blog

  • Small Steps to Improved Mental Health

    U.S. Army photo

    This month, we encouraged you to take charge of your mental health and reflect on whether yours could be improved. It’s easy to forget how important our mental health is to our overall health and well-being, and how with very little effort we can maintain it. Everyone faces stresses and demands. Life can take a toll on our mind and body, but if we commit a little time each day to improving our mental health, we will do for our mind what regular physical exercise does for our bodies — makes us stronger and more fit.


    The Real Warriors Campaign article, “Psychological Fitness — Keeping Your Mind Fit,” does a good job of summing up the importance of having a fit mind, not just a fit body. Psychological fitness involves building your mental, emotional and behavioral abilities in order to effectively cope with the unique and changing challenges of military service. In other words, developing a healthier mental state can carry you through tough times. It can also help you be a source of strength for others. By focusing on the following five areas, you can strengthen your psychological fitness:    

  • Support Critical for Returning National Guard, Reserve Members

    Oklahoma National Guardsmen respond to the devastation caused by a deadly tornado that struck Moore, Okla., May 20, 2013.l
    Oklahoma National Guardsmen respond to the devastation caused by a deadly tornado that struck Moore, Okla., May 20, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Kendall James)

    Of the more than two million service members who have deployed as part of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, approximately 665,000 were reserve component members. As a result, a large number of these troops have experienced the individual or combined stressors of long and/or multiple deployments with short breaks between their services. 

    In the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) May webinar, “Psychological Health Issues in the National Guard and Reserves: Prevalence, Barriers and Treatment,” Dr. M. Tracie Shea, a psychologist and director of posttraumatic stress disorder research at Providence Veterans Affairs Medical Center, R.I., discussed psychological health concerns experienced by reserve component members post deployment, challenges they face accessing care, and treatment recommendations for providers who work with them. 

    Active-duty and reserve component members face different reintegration challenges. Shea explained that the different stressors that National Guard and reserve members face may contribute to psychological health concerns after deployment (posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, substance abuse, anger and aggression). These stressors include:

  • Need Some Motivation Right Now?

    In Adam Anicich’s blog post, “Take Responsibility for Your Recovery and Get Back on Track,” from his “Adam at Ease” video blog series, he reminds those who experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI) but feel unmotivated to participate in their rehabilitation, how important it is to take an active role in their recovery, even when progress seems slow. One way to do this is by setting a goal — physical, emotional, psychological or social, and start working toward it. Seeing even a little progress on a daily or weekly basis can be encouraging and possibly just the motivational boost you need. Watch Adam’s video for more strategies to get back on track with healing.

  • DCoE Director Outlines Tenure Accomplishments in Farewell Message

    Capt. Paul Hammer in Afghanistan, 2011
    Capt. Paul Hammer in Afghanistan, 2011, with members of the Gray Team, a hand-selected group of experts representing the service chiefs, combatant commands, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on matters regarding the "invisible wounds of war." (Courtesy photo)

    Tomorrow, I hand over the reins of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) to Capt. Richard F. Stoltz, MSC, USN. When I came to DCoE two and a half years ago, I laid out my vision for the way ahead, how we would get there and what the end state would look like.

    First, we would need to develop a comprehensive base of knowledge to evaluate, diagnose, treat and rehabilitate service members with psychological health concerns and traumatic brain injury (TBI).

    Second, we would continue to provide timely, accurate, comprehensive and focused information on psychological health and traumatic brain injury to the military services and Defense Department colleagues.

    Third, we would develop a comprehensive analysis of gaps in research and aggressively advocate how to fill those gaps.

    Fourth, we would leverage our knowledge and clinical expertise to improve the system of care.

  • Life After Injury: Finding Support Through RESPECT-Mil

    Two service members
    Photo by Megan Locke Simpson, courtesy of Fort Campbell Courier

    When faced with psychological health concerns or a traumatic brain injury (TBI), it may not be easy for someone to step forward to seek help, especially if they feel they can do it on their own. However, getting back to a feeling of normalcy is often a long and difficult process, and one greatly eased by support from professionals and resources.

    U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Tippett sustained multiple concussions, also known as mild traumatic brain injuries, during five deployments and 17 years in the Army. He knows the effects of mild TBI are nothing to brush off, although that’s exactly what he first did. Encouraged by his family to seek treatment after they noticed changes in his mood and demeanor immediately upon returning from deployment in 2005, Tippett began treatment that included psychological health support from RESPECT.Mil, a program he credits with helping him stay on track.

    RESPECT-Mil is a treatment model for primary care providers to screen, assess and treat service members with psychological health conditions. Designed by Deployment Health Clinical Center, the program operates in 96 military clinics and screens more than 80,000 primary care visits each month for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.

  • DCoE Director Explains Science Behind PTSD

    Brain cross-section
    Courtesy graphic by Heather Miller Seger

    If you were to ask random strangers, “What is the most important organ in the human body,” what answers do you think you might get? Many people would say the heart and lungs, but for most it would probably be the brain. The brain’s role is central in our lives but that’s often overlooked or taken for granted until the brain is impacted by illness or injury.

    Like any other organ or organ system in the body, it’s important to understand what the underlying problem is in order to effectively treat it. This is particularly true when we think about an individual with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

    You need to know the science.

    There are three brain structures that play key roles in the science behind PTSD. They are the amygdala, hippocampus and prefrontal cortex.

    The amygdala is the stress evaluator. It continuously monitors all situations for danger and decides when to react. The sights, sounds and smells of frightening and dangerous memories are stored here. When the brain recognizes similar situations, the amygdala sends out danger signals and gets the body ready for a flight or fight response.