• 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.

  • Annual Trauma Spectrum Conference Day Two: Pain Management, Decision Making

    The second day of the fourth annual Trauma Spectrum Conference at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Md., Dec. 8-9, hosted by Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE), NIH and the Department of Veterans Affairs highlighted psychological health, including new ways to market clinical studies, battlefield psychological assistance, pain management and how a provider and patient can work together to reach a mutual decision on a diagnosis.

  • Annual Trauma Spectrum Conference Day One: TBI, Technology, Sleep Discussed

    Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) hosted the fourth annual Trauma Spectrum Conference at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Md., Dec. 8-9. The conference brought together top minds from DCoE, NIH, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), health care providers and military health care advocates to discuss a key issue: how to bridge the gap between clinical research and military systems of care for psychological health and traumatic brain injury (TBI).

    “This is an important conference because we have a lot of creative people out in the world doing excellent work,” said Navy Capt. Paul S. Hammer, DCoE director, who gave opening remarks. He stressed the need to provide greater care to wounded warriors by translating information from the research world into clinical reality, and reminded the audience of the importance of keeping the patient at the center of what they do every day.

  • 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.
  • Veterans Service Organizations: Find One that Fits Your Needs
    U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Katherine Keleher

    If you’re a veteran, you might have already connected with a veterans service organization (VSO) and are familiar with the services and benefits offered by Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). However, for service members who haven’t yet transitioned or will be transitioning to veteran status soon, Real Warriors Campaign recently published an article, “What VSOs Can Do For You” that’s quite helpful.

    When it comes to a VSO specifically, it’s important to note that some VSOs are chartered, which means these organizations are federally authorized to represent veterans before VA, and some are non-chartered. For example, chartered VSOs may prepare and present veterans benefit claims to VA. Non-chartered VSOs may provide veterans and their dependents with information on how to obtain veterans services and benefits, but they cannot serve as a representative before VA. Your specific need may determine the VSO that’s best for you to explore and reach out to.

    Here’s a brief look at a few chartered VSOs partnered with the Real Warriors Campaign:

  • 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.