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  • 8 Resources to Help You Talk with Kids about Brain Injury, Mental Health

    Read the full story: 8 Resources to Help You Talk with Kids about Brain Injury, Mental Health
    A member of the 133rd Airlift Wing says goodbye to family in St. Paul, Minn., prior to departing

    Life as a military child can be tough. But, when you are also the child of a military member coping with a psychological health or traumatic brain injury (TBI) concern, life can feel overwhelming and sometimes scary. Talking to children openly about these concerns can help ease fear and prepare them for challenges ahead.

    “It’s helpful to talk with children using examples that will relate to them, their own experiences,” said Army Maj. Demietrice Pittman, a clinical psychologist with the Deployment Health Clinical Center.

    Pittman suggests using examples that are age-appropriate and connect with your child’s reality, such as:

    “You know when you don’t get your favorite toy, or when you don’t get to spend time with your friends, you get upset? Mom had something happen that may cause her to get upset a little more easily. And she will need to do the same things you would do — walk away or take a time-out.”

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  • When Doctors Become Patients: Fighting the Ebola Virus

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    Images courtesy of U.S. Public Health Service

    Sometimes a disaster is so horrific it causes not just physical but psychological damage for survivors, and it’s not uncommon for the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps to send teams of mental health providers on humanitarian missions.

    But when the Commissioned Corps deployed teams to Liberia last October in the wake of the Ebola epidemic, the mental health teams came along to help a different set of victims: the doctors and nurses themselves. It was already clear that the epidemic was claiming an unprecedented number of health care providers, despite their best precautions. Some in the United States were even suggesting that health care providers who came down with Ebola should be barred from returning home.

    “We didn’t know what to anticipate, but we saw a lot of fear of the unknown in our own country,” said USPHS Lt. Cmdr. Kate Migliaccio, senior public information officer.

    One of the main goals of the medical officers who deployed was to care for the doctors and nurses treating the infected, including their psychological health. In field hospitals built to treat Ebola patients, a team of medical providers (nurses, lab officers, pharmacists and behavioral health providers) cared for their colleagues — the sick health care workers who contracted the virus.

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  • Expert Offers TBI Recovery Guidelines for Young Athletes

    read this story: Expert Offers TBI Recovery Guidelines for Young Athletes
    A junior athlete dribbles a basketball. (Photo by Marine Lance Cpl. Paul E. Wyatt)

    In a society that never likes to take a break, studies show that young athletes must be sidelined for their own good after sustaining a concussion. An expert with the Safe Concussion Outcome, Recovery and Education (SCORE) Program at Children’s National Medical Center discussed a number of strategies to help youth recover from TBI during last week’s DCoE webinar.

    First, the parent, teacher, athlete or doctor needs to understand what full recovery means, said the expert, Gerard A. Gioia, SCORE Pediatric Neuropsychology director.

    “We look to see if, functionally, things are back to normal,” Gioia said. “We’d ask, ‘Are you performing at school and at work like you normally do?’”

    “Normal” means most symptoms should be gone, including headaches, fatigue, sensitivity to light, trouble with balance and dizziness.

    Determining how long athletes should rest after a concussion — and what kind of rest — can be crucial to recovery, he said.

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  • Let Your Brain Relax: Mindfulness Meditation Can Reduce Some TBI Symptoms

    Read the full story: Let Your Brain Relax: Mindfulness Meditation Can Reduce Some TBI Symptoms

    Staying in the moment can be hard for anyone, but it’s a particular challenge for people recovering from brain trauma. Mental distractions, such as too much excitement, anxiety and other mental stress, are hallmarks of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and can affect the healing process. According to experts and research, a simple and effective way to help the brain repair itself is to give it a little R&R (military slang for rest and recuperation).

    That’s where mindfulness meditation, which helps quiet the mind, comes in. This form of meditation is becoming more common as research continues to prove the benefits of using it to treat traumatic brain injury. Mindfulness meditation teaches patients to achieve open, accepting, non-judgmental awareness (mindfulness) of the present moment by focusing attention on the breath. It is helpful not only during the stressful period immediately after an injury but throughout the recovery process, according to an expert with the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC).

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  • 10 Ways to Help Kids Conquer the Challenges of Military Life

    Read the full story: 10 Ways to Help Kids Conquer the Challenges of Military Life
    U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ashley J. Thum

    We often say that military kids face “unique challenges,” but what does that really mean? Military children grow up fast. They know firsthand what big change feels like, from saying goodbye to friends to learning new languages and customs. They learn terms like “PCS,” “period of adjustment,” and “deployment,” sometimes before they can even spell their last names.

    Currently, about 1.88 million military children experience a different set of obstacles than their non-military peers. They don’t have to face the challenges of military life alone. Many great resources, created specifically for military children of all ages, are designed to help teach, inspire, encourage and comfort through the good and the more difficult times.

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  • Mobile App Teaches Mindfulness Techniques for Daily Life

    Read the story: Mobile App Teaches Mindfulness Techniques for Daily Life
    Army Spc. Melanie McConathy maintains a meditative posture during a Zen meditation practice in 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Margaret Taylor)

    The ancient Buddhist practice of mindfulness is becoming more popular in our fast-paced western world, from helping employees in large corporations such as Google to aiding service members at military installations around the United States.

    “Mindfulness is part of a new wave in psychology, helping people recognize and cope with thoughts and feelings,” said David Cooper, a psychologist with the National Center for Telehealth & Technology (T2). “It teaches us to observe what is going on in our minds — to not put too much importance on our thoughts and let them go.”

    The last post in the DCoE Blog series on mindfulness described simple steps for meditating mindfully. A more thorough introduction to mindfulness and a series of mindfulness practices are available through a free mobile app that aims to help military members learn to reduce tension and improve coping skills.

    T2 collaborated with psychologists at the Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD on the app, called Mindfulness Coach. It introduces the concept of mindfully focusing attention and guides users through a variety of practices.

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