• DCoE Director Holiday Message
    Navy Capt. Paul S. Hammer

    Happy Holidays from all of us at Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE)!

    It’s hard to believe it has been almost a year in January since I came onboard. As predicted there was a lot of “drinking from the fire hose” the first several months, but luckily I have found my sea legs. I can’t say that it hasn’t been challenging, but it certainly has been worth it.

    In 2011 there has been a lot of positive change that has occurred within DCoE that will allow us to better serve our sailors, airmen, Marines, soldiers and those in military medicine.

    Three of our six centers are now aligned under different agencies. Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress and Center for Deployment Psychology are now a part of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, and National Intrepid Center of Excellence is under the National Naval Medical Center.

  • The Time to Prevent Suicide is Always Now
    I will reach out for help...

    We hear about suicide prevention awareness every September, the month designated to bring national attention to this issue. At Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE), and many agencies, private organizations and nonprofit groups, every day is an opportunity to reach at-risk individuals through advocacy, crisis intervention and targeted resources.

    I recently asked Dr. Colanda Cato, DCoE clinical psychologist, about her presentation to CrisisLink, a Washington, D.C.-based crisis and suicide prevention organization that provides a national 24/7 crisis hotline. At their “2011 Fall Forum: United in Hope,” Cato talked to CrisisLink counselors, staff and board members about military suicides, connecting with the people who answer those calls to the hotline from service members and veterans.

  • Got Holiday Stress? Here’s How to Prevent and Cope
    Army Maj. Todd Yosick

    The holidays are a special time for most of us, but can also be challenging because of the multiple demands and stressors of the season. It provides all of us a time to recharge and reflect on the events of the year, while preparing for what the new year will bring.

    We understand the challenges service members, veterans and military families can face during the holidays. The absence of loved ones, adjusting to life at home, communicating with family and friends—all of these things can heighten emotions and increase stress levels. With this in mind, how can we prevent unwanted stress, or better manage our stress during the holidays? Here are a few key areas that are important to remember:

    1. Maintain strong emotional ties and work hard to develop new ones. Remember that your success at bonding with others can provide some of the energy and support you’ll need to springboard into next year. Human connection is imperative, especially when times might be tough.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: A Dog’s Tale
    Former Army Capt. Luis Carlos Montalvan and his service dog, Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of Leslie Granda-Hill)

    Luis Carlos Montalvan is a decorated war veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a traumatic brain injury (TBI) sustained while serving two tours in Iraq. I spoke with Montalvan at the Pentagon library Nov. 30 where he shared perspectives on PTSD and TBI and his special relationship with Tuesday, his service dog. From that conversation, here’s what I imagined Tuesday might say if he could talk.

    My name is Tuesday. I’m currently resting at the feet of former Army Capt. Luis Carlos Montalvan, who’s talking about two subjects that most interest him — bringing veterans’ struggles with PTSD and TBI to the forefront, and me.

    Let’s be clear. I’m not really resting. I’m a highly-trained, low-tech asset listening to Montalvan’s breathing, words, inflection and tuning in to any changes in perspiration or scent that might indicate an oncoming anxiety attack. My back is touching his leg. I’ll likely know before he does if he starts to feel unwell and alert him and others. I’ve often heard him say that I’m his litmus test; he looks to me to gauge how he’s feeling.

  • T2 Treatments for PTSD Get Virtual
    U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Renae Kleckner

    A service member puts on a headset with a screen for each eye. He’s given a joystick that’s built with low-frequency vibrations and sounds, mirroring the vehicle he drove while on the battlefield. As he navigates through the virtual combat world, his head movements are tracked with an orientation system. Pre-fabricated smells mimicking burning rubber and weapons firing are released into the air, and the service member ventures into virtual war.

    This is the new Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET) being studied by National Center for Telehealth and Technology (T2), a Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury center. T2 is currently researching this therapy, which places service members face-to-face with their unique experiences on the battlefield to help treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and to help service members process memories. Once the study is completed, this unique treatment will be offered to service members and veterans.

  • Mind Over Matter? At T2 The Two Work Together
    Subject matter experts and developers at National Center for Telehealth and Technology (T2) work together to create mobile apps for members of the military community. (T2 photo by Bill Wheeler)

    At the National Center for Telehealth and Technology (T2), a Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) center, psychologists and technology developers work together to create innovative products that help users address psychological health and traumatic brain injury concerns. I asked T2 experts, Dr. Nancy Kao Rhiannon, research psychologist, and Roger Reeder, senior developer for mobile applications, to tell us a little bit about how their collaborative process brings new products to life.

    How does the creative process for new products begin? Can it start with either the psychologist or the developer?
    Rhiannon: Typically, one of our subject matter experts (SME) shares a concept for a product meant to benefit service members. There’s a lot of interplay between the SME and the developer. While the SME may have the idea and how it can be applied, the developer is the one who actually makes the technology work.