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  • Things Aren’t Always What They Appear – Reach Out to Your Friend Today

    Plato taught us, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” It’s not always easy to recognize those who are struggling, particularly in the age of social media when many share only their happiest moments and greatest accomplishments. According to some studies, social media can have a negative impact on mental health, increasing anxiety and depression. On the flip side, social media can be a powerful tool to reach out to someone to show that you care, to connect after deployment or relocation and to build community.

  • Clinician’s Corner: Patients Can Use Simple Tool to Identify Intense Emotions before Suicidal Crises

    Through our work with military service members and their family members who have experienced a recent suicidal crisis, we have learned that emotions immediately preceding such crises vary significantly from person to person. During individual psychotherapy sessions, our clinicians ask patients to share their suicide stories to better understand the circumstances that resulted in the suicide-related hospitalization and which circumstances resulted most often in the decision to attempt suicide. While providing this narrative, patients report a wide range of emotions that preceded the suicidal crisis such as intense despair, extreme excitement, agitation, uncontrollable anger, numbness, or indifference, as well as debilitating feelings of inadequacy.

    We believe that an important clinical strategy in working with suicidal patients is to first identify emotions that activate and shape a patient’s trajectory from suicidal thinking to suicidal behaviors. The next step is to understand the intensity of these identified emotions so that we can teach the patient to modulate these emotions more adaptively in the future. By mapping out the patient’s emotions in a stepwise fashion, the clinician is able to help the patient identify key points for early intervention strategies, such as a self-soothing technique, deep breathing exercise, or other healthy coping technique (e.g., calling a friend, engaging in strenuous exercise) to impede further escalation.

  • Providers Can Help Patients Transfer Care with Ease

    Doing right by patients who are transferring is as easy as a phone call, according to George Lamb, Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) outreach chief. That’s all it takes to make sure service members continue to get the psychological care they need when they change duty stations or leave the military.

    That is the message Lamb wanted providers to take home from the 2015 DCoE Summit. InTransition is a program that assigns patients to a coach who checks in with them regularly and facilitates their care.

    “To me it’s a no-brainer,” Lamb told conference participants. “You would have to have a notebook a foot high to list all the benefits available. I know how difficult it can be.”

    With one call to inTransition, the work is done, he said. “It takes three to five minutes. It’s actually quicker than ordering meds if you make the referral online,” said Lamb.

  • Sleep Issues Bedevil Soldiers’ Health

    Lack of sleep is a serious issue for many service members, as shown by the findings of a study on military sleep sponsored by the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE). In particular, sleep issues are the “No. 1 military disorder” among soldiers who return from deployment after sustaining traumatic brain injuries, according to Lt. Col. Kate Van Arman, medical director of the Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic on Fort Drum, New York. This article by David Vergun from the Fort Leonard Wood “Guidon” recounts Van Arman’s presentation at the DCoE 2015 Summit on Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.

    “I didn’t realize that all this time I’ve been in a formation of drunks,” the noncommissioned officer, or NCO, told Lt. Col. Kate Van Arman.

  • Phone Call Makes World of Difference for Combat Veteran

    Laura Davis has seen many happy endings in her time helping service members and veterans as an inTransition coach, but for her, a recent case stands out because she was able to get someone back on his feet and ensure he remained connected to valuable mental health resources.

    The recent case started when a provider referred a veteran to the inTransition program for continued care with his posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). InTransition is designed to pair coaches with service members to maintain their mental health care treatment during changes in status. inTransition coaches are trained to help move service members and veterans between health care systems or providers every step of the way. Coaches bring military culture awareness and experience. Davis is an example; she understands the situations veterans face. Her father served in the military, was deployed to Iraq for Operation Desert Storm in the 1990s, and displayed symptoms of PTSD.

  • Primary Care and Emergency Providers Can Help Prevent Suicide

    An important finding about suicide is spurring a new approach to reducing it: In the month before they take their own lives, many people who die by suicide seek medical or psychological care.

    These patients don’t come to their local clinic or hospital for help with suicidal thoughts, but with other medical or mental health issues. They may have traumatic brain injury, or they could be depressed. They may have chronic health problems. They might have gone to the emergency department following a drug overdose. Those conditions are treated, but the patient is not necessarily assessed for suicidal risk.

    By evaluating all patients at risk of suicide no matter their reason for seeking care, immediately treating those at risk, and providing follow-up care, health care systems can substantially reduce suicides, presenters said at the 2015 summit of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury.