By Elaine Wilson, AFPS
Dec. 11, 2009
Yesterday I made the short trek to Bethesda, Md., to attend the Trauma Spectrum Disorders Conference at the National Institutes of Health.
Nearly 400 caregivers from the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs and the National Institutes of Health gathered to discuss the impact of trauma spectrum disorders on military and veteran families and caregivers throughout the deployment lifecycle. TSD encompasses a broad range of psychological health and traumatic brain injury issues.
Experts provided the latest data and research on military families and talked at length about how to apply that data.
“We must pay attention to the whole person, the whole family, the whole community, the whole nation,” Army Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Loree K. Sutton, director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, said in her opening remarks. “It’s about building resilience. It’s about fostering recovery, and supporting reintegration into communities across this country.”
I attended one conference session that really drove that point home. Army wife Sheri Hall spoke of her husband’s struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder in the wake of two deployments to Iraq.
Hall said her husband struggled with thoughts of suicide and she lived in fear of losing him, afraid to sleep or leave him for even a few minutes.
“I’d pick the kids up from school and come home and rush into the house before they did, because I was afraid in the 30 minutes that I was gone, he would take his life,” she said. “I never, ever thought in my wildest dreams that my husband would put a gun to his head and shoot himself, but that’s what he wanted to do.”
She was nearly in tears as she told her story and so was the audience, including me. The couple eventually found help and are now advocates for other military families. Read about their journey of recovery at Spouse Describes Impact of Post-traumatic Stress.
You can also see the Halls on several public service announcements for the Real Warriors campaign at http://realwarriors.net/multimedia/psas.php
For more on the conference, go to Conference Explores Trauma’s Impact on Families.