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  • Duty Calls a Nation to PTSD Awareness

    Two service members in front of an American flag
    Army Spc. Audie Allen-Alexander and Sgt. Julius Nkemayim celebrate Nkemayim's U.S. citizenship after he was sworn in. The Cameroon native had always dreamed of being a true U.S. soldier and citizen. (Courtesy photo)

    Next Thursday, our nation will celebrate the Fourth of July with fiery bursts of red, white and blue exploding to the backdrop of the night sky, set to rousing patriotic melodies evoking memories of promise and what the future holds for the land of the free and the home of the brave.

    However, for many of our country’s veterans the celebratory sounds of America’s freedom no longer represent the patriotic revelry it once did, but instead evoke memories of the reverberating sounds of mortar or heavy artillery fire and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) sending shockwaves through their body.

    For veterans who’ve been to war and for those who may have developed posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), what their minds and bodies once needed to survive in combat can unwillingly deceive them back at home.

    In combat, their minds would intuitively sense danger and trigger a response flooding their bodies with hormones to raise their heart rate and blood pressure, sharpen their eye sight, and shoot adrenaline into their bloodstream preparing them for battle. When memories related to past traumas entered their minds, they pushed them away in order to concentrate on the immediate danger posed by enemy activity, hidden improvised explosive devices (IEDs) or other hazards.

  • PTSD: Read, Learn, Understand

    U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kevin Milliken

    Why take time to learn about posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? PTSD affects an estimated 11 to 20 percent of service members after a deployment. And, eight percent of the U.S. population will be affected by it in their lifetime. Further, although effective treatments for PTSD exist, there’s still stigma associated with seeking psychological health care, discouraging those who need help from getting it. You should learn more because you, your sister, battle buddy, husband, wife or best friend could be diagnosed with PTSD. What would you know that could help?

    During June, recognized as PTSD Awareness Month, the Department of Veterans Affairs and others encouraged individuals to raise awareness of this nationally important issue and pledge to those affected that they’re not alone. The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) hosted a virtual event that brought together more than 50 government and non-profit organizations to highlight mental health resources available to the military community. And, earlier this month the White House hosted a national conference as part of the administration’s effort to increase understanding and awareness about mental health and reduce associated stigma.

    There’s something all of us can do: visit the National Center for PTSD website. You’ll find PTSD resources for military personnel, providers and families. Also, here’s a selection of articles from the DCoE Blog that are insightful and informative. The more you’re aware, the more you can share with others who need help.

  • Chaplains Discuss Relieving Trauma Through Body Awareness

    MAJ Jeff Hall
    Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division pray prior to a foot patrol in Khalis, Iraq. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway)

    Chaplains are often the first stop of support for service members wrestling with moral and spiritual uncertainties stemming from the stress of serving in a combat environment, domestic difficulties surrounding deployment, and psychological health concerns such as posttraumatic stress disorder, depression and substance abuse. There seems to be less of a stigma associated with seeking the counsel of a chaplain, who also may be viewed as more ap­proachable, than engaging in formal avenues of psychological health care. For some, the only assistance that feels right during stressful times is spiritual support that’s completely confidential between service member and chaplain.

    The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) Chaplain Working Group, consisting of military and Department of Veterans Affairs’ chaplains, is a spiritually-focused forum on deployment-related challenges. It’s an opportunity for the participants to collaborate effectively with each other regarding the psychological health issues they experience with service members. The group meets via teleconference every other month.

    During its last meeting, Dr. Peter Levine, director of The Somatic Experiencing Trauma Institute, presented on “Somatic Experiencing: A Naturalistic Approach to the Healing of Trauma.” “Somatic experiencing,” characterized by Levine as a body awareness approach to trauma, is based on his realization that human beings have a natural ability to overcome the effects of trauma and stress.

  • Change Your Behavior for Good!

    Choose a salad. Join a yoga class. Make changes for good.
    DoD photos

    We all know people who courageously decide to make behavioral changes, whether it’s to exercise more, cut out alcohol, stop smoking, or spend less time on the Internet and more time with family. Some are successful with making new habits stick, while others fall back into the familiarity of their former, even if unhealthy, routines. So, it’s no surprise that changing behaviors can be challenging. It’s rarely a simple process and may require a concentrated commitment of time and effort to make them permanent. But, there are ways to increase your chances of success. 

    It should help to know that numerous studies indicate you’re not doomed to destructive habits. It’s possible to adopt new habits as well as undo negative ones. It may well rest on gaining some insights into approaches recommended by professionals.

  • Reaching Vets in the Golden Hour of Mental Health Injuries

    Soldier helping another out of a ditch

    U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nathanael Callon

    Below is a blog post from the Department of Veterans Affairs blog, “VAntage Point.”

    Veterans are naturally drawn to communities. We’re closer than brothers and sisters in the military, and we’re more than a family in combat. But once we leave a cohesive unit, joining a community is voluntary. Organizations like Team Rubicon and Team Red, White and Blue have capitalized on the military ethos of community and cohesiveness to support the veteran population.

    Yet, even with support networks in place, some vets in crisis unfortunately take their lives. In war, many lives are saved in the golden hour — the small window of time someone can survive serious wounds if they get immediate medical attention. But, what about a golden hour for veterans who need mental health attention?