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  • Mindfulness Meditation Can Help Your Brain Handle Stress

    Read the Full Story: Mindfulness meditation can help your brain handle stress
    U.S. Army photo

    This is the first in a series of posts on mindfulness meditation. Future posts will feature mindfulness meditation techniques and how the practice can help treat various health concerns.

    After two tours of duty in Iraq, Michael (not his real name) struggled with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and mild depression. A psychiatrist prescribed the 32-year-old service member medication and exposure therapy and saw him every two weeks.

    The therapy helped, but after a year Michael had trouble keeping up with the visits. He didn’t want to backslide; was there something he could do at home? Actually, there is: mindfulness meditation.

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  • Treat Stress, Anxiety Early for Successful TBI Recovery

    Read the full story: Treat Stress, Anxiety Early for Successful TBI Recovery
    Service member experiencing effects of anxiety. (DoD photo)

    Most first responders are familiar with the “golden hour”—those precious 60 minutes from the time a trauma patient is injured to when they should get medical attention. Although this magical hour remains a topic of debate among experts, most will agree that the sooner trauma is treated, the better the outcome.

    Health care providers should apply the same concept when treating patients for the stress and anxiety that accompany a traumatic brain injury (TBI), according to Dr. C. Alan Hopewell, a subject matter expert with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC).

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  • Presidents with Symptoms of Mental Health Concerns Offer Examples of Resilience

    Read the full story: Presidents with Symptoms of Mental Health Concerns Offer Examples of Resilience
    Photo by Marine Lance Cpl. Norman Eckles

    The news is full of stories about service members who struggle with psychological health concerns, but you don’t often hear that many U.S. presidents likely faced similar challenges.

    As the nation celebrates President’s Day, it’s worth noting that nearly half of presidents between 1776 and 1974 experienced symptoms of mental illness at some point in their lives, one-quarter during their terms as president, according to a 2006 Duke study.

    Of the 37 presidents who served between 1776 and 1974, 18 exhibited signs of psychological health concerns, according to the study by three psychiatrists. The most common disorder was depression, followed by anxiety and alcohol abuse. One president may have had posttraumatic stress disorder following the violent death of a child.

    The study doesn’t conclusively establish that a particular president had a particular type of mental illness — since they weren’t actually seen by therapists, it’s not certain whether Abraham Lincoln really had depression or Calvin Coolidge had an anxiety disorder, said Mark Bates, Deployment Health Clinical Center associate director for population health.

    “There’s limited empirical data and lots of speculation based on historical records,” he said.

    But the aggregate data is consistent with the prevalence of mental illness in the population, Bates said. About half of Americans experience mental illness at some point in their lives, and a quarter of Americans report having experienced it in the past year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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  • Got Chocolate on the Brain? That Could Be a Good Thing

    Read the full story: Got Chocolate on the Brain? That Could Be a Good Thing
    U.S Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Colbert

    Science may change the way you think about chocolate this Valentine’s Day. A new study finds yet another potential benefit of the cocoa bean, this time for the brain.

    The study by Columbia University Medical Center scientists found that the brains of 60-year-olds who consumed a large quantity of a compound called cocoa flavanol — which is present in chocolate — performed like 30-year-olds in brain and memory tests.

    “While this study highlights some important pre-clinical and laboratory work, we just haven’t had a real good clinical trial to demonstrate how these benefits could apply to a larger population,” he said.

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  • Does Your Life Feel Like ‘Groundhog Day’?

    Soldier in battle fatigues talks on phone in field. Photo above promotional text.

    Feb. 2 is Groundhog Day—a day when we look to the shadow of a groundhog to predict an early spring or more winter weather.

    While you may know some history of the annual celebration, it’s more likely that you are familiar with the popular movie “Groundhog Day.” The movie focuses on a know-it-all weatherman who is forced to relive the same day over and over, no matter how he tries to change things.

    If you are trying to cope with psychological health concerns, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, or with traumatic brain injury (TBI), on your own, you may relate to the misfortune of the unpopular weatherman. You, and your family, may feel stuck, forced to face your days with no relief.

    Unlike the character in the movie, you don’t have to figure out how to move forward on your own. There are people and resources available to help you get unstuck.

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  • Military Doctors Help Civilian Therapists Understand Service Culture

    Read the full story: Military Doctors Help Civilian Therapists Understand Service Culture

    The military is a distinctive culture. Understanding this culture is critical for effective mental health care services and outcomes.

    Civilian psychological health providers have an unfamiliar new clientele: service members, and their families, who are coming home after a decade of war. Although members of the U.S. Armed Forces look like their civilian peers, their life experience is very different.

    “The military is a distinctive culture with distinguishing signs and symbols,” said Dr. Evelyn Lewis-Clark, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. And for civilian providers, understanding this culture “is critical to establishing tailored and effective health care services and outcomes.”

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