Photo courtesy of U.S. Army
Getting started is often the most difficult step in any process. If you’re a service member struggling with depression, sleep difficulties, posttraumatic stress, traumatic brain injury or any number of challenges to living a healthy, balanced life post-deployment, taking that first step toward improvement can be daunting. As simple as it seems, even clicking on a website that offers help for your concerns requires a leap of faith in yourself and the website.
That’s well understood by the developers of afterdeployment.dcoe.mil, an interactive wellness resource. Created specifically for service members, their families, veterans and health care providers, it takes into consideration the unique combination of issues service members could encounter post-deployment and guides their self-discovery through an engaging, media-rich experience.
The National Center for Telehealth and Technology (T2), a Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) center, manages the site.
“There are excellent resources out there but afterdeployment.dcoe.mil is developed and attended to by folks with military experience who know the environment and stress service members go through, lending a perspective very few other resources have,” said Dr. Frank Gonzales, T2 clinical psychologist and program lead.
A good site made better
You enter the afterdeployment.dcoe.mil site by selecting a subject area for self-assessment. Until recently, all workshops were laid out in a series of sequential components. As it’s in the culture of T2 to verify the user experience for its products and programs, user metrics told them that although the content was great, it was not always easily digested in the sequential format.
T2 looked at how some of the sites stacked up to theories of behavioral change and saw ways to improve the connection between user and content. Selected sites now have information arranged in small, easily-absorbable sections as part of interactive video workshops. Now, symptoms, causes, treatment, harmful and helpful habits, steps to take and more are accessible from one viewing page. Users can choose information and guidance that best fits their interest and needs.
“Instead of giving users a video lecture format, we harnessed the power of storytelling and created an engaging, human interface between user and content,” said Gonzales. “The videos were created to inspire curiosity to get information, take a self-assessment. We hope this will increase user participation, enhance their experience and make the content more understandable and accessible.”
Four done, more to come
Modules on sleep, depression, posttraumatic stress and mild traumatic brain injury display the new design. Suicide, anxiety and financial health modules are in production and are expected to be released by the end of the year. A module on pain management is scheduled for early 2013; other revised modules will follow.
The effort required to re-envision afterdeployment.dcoe.mil stems from Gonzales’ and his T2 colleagues’ belief that sometimes people don’t take steps to improvement because they either don’t have the right information or don’t understand how to use it. According to Gonzales, if people are given information that validates what they’re experiencing, and given steps to take action, that will provide the motivation for them to get help.
“We’re hoping that users looking at the videos will be inspired and motivated to go on to the behavioral change component found in the interactive workbooks and do the work involved to really invest in that change.”
Clicking on afterdeployment.dcoe.mil is a step in the right direction.
T2 recently released “LifeArmor,” a mobile application for afterdeployment.dcoe.mil. Read more about the app and where to download it on the DCoE website.