Posts Tagged Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
By Lisa Daniel
Sept. 27, 2012
As the Army conducts its worldwide standdown for suicide prevention today, there is something family members militarywide can do, too, and it only takes a minute. Get out your smart phone and enter the information for the Military Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 Press 1, militarycrisisline.net, or text at 838255.
All calls are confidential and they are taken by trained counselors. So even if you’re unsure if someone close to you may be suicidal, you could at least talk through the situation with someone who understands and could share insight. And in the terrible possibility of an emergency, you won’t be searching for a number to call.
Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III ordered the stand down in response to increasing soldier suicides, but noted it is a broader societal problem. “Ultimately, we want the mindset across our force and society at large to be that behavioral health is a routine part of what we do and who we are as we strive to maintain our own physical and mental wellness,” he said. Read more here.
As the Army stands down, I’m thinking of the families who struggle every day with the possibility of suicide. I’m thinking of the mother who makes daily calls to check in on her son, the wife who left her husband out of concern for their children after he attempted suicide, and the man who removed firearms from his brother’s house out of fear he would use them against himself. All bear unimaginable stress from the daily fear that a loved one will take his or her own life.
I’m also thinking of the families for whom the recent focus on suicide prevention came too late, for those who will forever think about how they may have missed signs leading up to a suicide.
I’m thinking of the Army family I knew who lost their only daughter to suicide when she was just 22. I knew Candace as the girl across the street, an outgoing and bubbly high school student who dreamed of being a pediatrician. She was a good student and an athlete and when she wasn’t studying or running, she spent many hours at my house playing with my son while I worked, often refusing payment, she said, because she so enjoyed playing with the baby. It was clear she had a gift with children and I marveled at what the future would hold for her.
My family moved away after a couple of years and Candace went away to college on scholarship, like we all expected. We lost touch after a while and somewhere in the next four years, Candace’s life got off track from what she had planned. At some point, she lost hope and took that awful step that has been called the permanent solution to temporary problems.
Eight years have passed and I still see Candace’s bright smile in my mind and wonder what could have been for her. Coping with any death is hard, but families and friends of suicide victims have the added torment of trying to understand how their loved one came to their decision and if they could have stopped them, if they missed the signs. More than a hundred Army families are coping with the suicide of a soldier this year and no doubt many more are dealing with another family member having taken their own life.
As Secretary Leon Panetta and other DOD leaders have said, understanding suicide and reversing its rising trend is hard; General Austin called it his toughest enemy. No training or information campaign will end all suicides. But today’s standdown hopefully will go a long way in helping people recognize the warning signs in a potentially suicidal person and, most importantly, it will elevate the conversation out of the darkness of being a taboo topic.
Posted by ldaniel in Uncategorized on June 6, 2012
Guest blogger Navy Lt. Theresa Donnelly, of U.S. Pacific Command, is the owner of Hawaii Military Pets, which provides pet resources for military families. She’s offered to share her pet-related knowledge in a series of blogs for Family Matters.
By Theresa Donnelly
With the uncertainty in military families due to constant moves and deployments, our four-legged family members provide comfort and stability in stressful times. These loyal, furry companions not only help those serving our nation, but are ideal friends to anyone in need.
In fact, a growing body of research is backing up what pet lovers already know – canines provide therapeutic benefits for those suffering from life’s invisible scars.
In the U.S. Army Medical Department Journal, Canine-Assisted Therapy in Military Medicine April –June 2012, authors retired Marine Corps Col. Elspeth C. Ritchie and Army Col. Robinette J. Amaker write that the “acceptance of canines in Army medicine and in the civilian world has virtually exploded.” They are the chief clinical officer of Washington, D.C., Department of Mental Health, and the assistant chief of the Army Medical Specialist Corps and occupational therapy consultant to the Army Surgeon General, respectively.
The authors cite several examples, such as canines being used to help children cope with autism, shelter dogs trained as services dogs and therapy dogs that help soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress.
Now, there is a difference between animal-assisted therapy dogs and service dogs. In 2010, The American with Disabilities Act revised its definition of service animalsto be “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.”
This regulation on service animals contains no stipulations on breed and even allows miniature horses under special circumstances. There’s no regulatory body for certifying service animals, nor can businesses ask for medical paperwork and/or an identification card for the dog. They can ask if the dog is required because of a disability and what work or task the dog has been trained to perform.
According to the American Humane Association, an animal-assisted therapy dog is designed to improve a patient’s social, emotional, or cognitive functioning. Pet therapy is used in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, mental institutions and prisons. It also is used in wounded warrior clinics, and veterans’ centers.
Researchers have documented the positive benefits of animal-assisted therapy. In a 2005 study, the American Heart Association found that a 12-minute visit with a therapy dog reduced blood pressure and levels of stress hormones and eased anxiety among hospitalized heart failure patients. There have been additional studies with Alzheimer’s patients, school children in reading programs and even an ongoing study at The Department of Defense’s National Intrepid Center of Excellence where at least 100 service members have participated in the canine therapy program.
Susan Luehrs is the founder of Hawaii Fi-Do, a not-for-profit that sponsors trained therapy dogs’ visits to troops at Marine and Army Wounded Warrior battalions. Here’s how she describes the dogs’ healing effects when asked about the program.
“It’s the unconditional love of the dog that makes this all possible,” Luehrs said. “They don’t care what color you are, if you can read, if you have a missing limb — they’re just there for that touch and [the dogs] give that back.”
Many organizations provide a qualifying process for pet owners to begin therapy work. One example is Tripler Army Medical Center’s Human Animal Bond Program, which collaborates with The American Red Cross and Army Veterinary Services to screen dogs through a series of temperament and health tests to verify that they’ll make good candidates for visiting hospital patients.
The growing field of pet therapy shows that professionals are seeking alternative therapies to help patients deal with stressful circumstances. As this treatment gains acceptance, more pet owners can enjoy pet therapy as a way to bond with their pets and the people they’re helping.
If you’re interested in having your family pet become a therapy animal, ask your military veterinarian if they know of any local programs or contact a few hospitals, schools, the local Humane Society or a veterans’ center. There may be several programs to choose from for just the right fit.
Posted by in Family Matters on September 29, 2011
By Dr. Kate McGraw
Clinical Psychologist, Defense Centers of Excellence
Sept. 29, 2011
If you could have the ideal loving relationship, what would that look like? For some couples, it would involve a lot of time together and shared interests, and for others, it may include more space and time spent separately. There are many ways to be a loving partner, and the key is discovering what your partner needs from you, rather than what they aren’t giving to you.
Often, loving your partner means putting yourself in their place and imagining what would bring them happiness.
Military couples face incredibly challenging stressors together. Those couples who remain resilient often find themselves with stronger relationships when the dust settles. However, many of the unique stressors imposed on military couples may chip away at the fabric of safety and peace within the relationship. What can you and your partner do to help protect your relationship from the stress of military life?
Here are some ideas to enrich your relationship so it serves as a vessel of comfort for both of you:
– Ask your partner what he (or she) needs. Also, you should be able to identify what you need and how your needs can be met. If you both develop empathy for each other’s needs, than you both will be satisfied with what you can create together in your relationship.
– Eliminate all sarcasm, name calling, belittling or other types of verbal and emotional abuse, and make a pact not to tolerate displays of temper such as slamming objects or doors. These behaviors cause significant damage to the trust and safety between you and may lead to physical abuse. If you’re able to say at least five positive comments to every negative comment, your relationship will feel much more loving and supportive.
– Nurture the bond between you. One way is to foster and keep open, regular communication about the important things in your life, as well as the small daily matters.
– Develop a homecoming ritual upon your partner’s return from deployment. This ritual can serve as a line of demarcation — a dividing point from their being away at war, to being here, at peace.
– Often service members returning from deployment need a period of readjustment to their old lifestyle and familiar surroundings. They may want to talk but are unable to find words to express their experiences or feelings about what they’ve been through. They may need time to themselves, which you should respect. Nonmilitary partners also can play an important role in the relationship’s stress management by lovingly encouraging their military loved one to seek help for severe post-deployment problems.
– Service members should remember that their partners want to help and reconnect with them, and should have compassion for the stresses their partners experienced during their time away. It’s OK to share your feelings about your deployment experiences without sharing details about what you saw or did. In this way you can reconnect emotionally, lean on your partner for support, and feel less isolated while protecting them from the harsh realities of what you experienced.
Be alert for signs of traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress disorder. If you find yourself unable to cope, talk to your partner about it and seek professional help. If you have suicidal thoughts, always seek professional help, as you may be experiencing depression, which resolves with proper treatment.
In the end, our relationships reflect the amount of energy and devotion we put into them. If you give your relationship the gifts of compassion and empathy, regardless of what the external world heaps upon you, you will reap the rewards of contentment and love within your relationship.
Are you familiar with some of the risk factors for suicide, which include relationship issues? Find out more about suicide prevention information and resources on the DCoE website.
(This post was reprinted from the Defense Centers of Excellence Blog.)
Posted by in Family Matters on August 29, 2011
Aug. 29, 2011
In this post, Sheri Hall answers questions about how she supported her family while her husband, Army Maj. Jeff Hall, struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder after his second tour in Iraq, and shares how she encouraged him to seek help through the Deployment Health Clinical Center’s specialized care program. The center is part of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, and offers care for those experiencing PTSD and reintegration concerns.
Q. What was your reaction when your husband returned home?
A. I noticed he had a deep, dark, hollow look in his eyes. I asked him if he needed to talk to someone. I let him know that I was supportive but he wasn’t receptive at the time. I think he felt he needed to be the “macho” soldier.
Q. What was the impact of his post-combat stress on you?
A. I was never fearful for Jeff’s life while he was in combat, since I knew that he trained himself well. When Jeff returned and was having suicidal thoughts, I couldn’t sleep. I was so worried I would sit in bed and watch him. I feared he would just leave. I lost 15 pounds in two weeks. When I’d take the kids to school, I would race home to make sure Jeff was where I last saw him.
Q. How did you try to communicate with your husband during this time?
A. I told him that while I didn’t know the effects of combat, I knew that something was wrong. It was hard because he kind of pushed me and the girls away. Finally, I sat down with him and said, “If you kill yourself, how do I explain it to your daughters, your mother and father, and my family?” It was like a light bulb went on, and that’s when we looked into the DHCC program.
Q. What would you tell military parents about how to communicate with their children?
A. Encourage children to be vocal; tell us what’s bothering you. I put on a big front when Jeff was experiencing PTSD and never told the girls about my sleepless nights. If I had, we could have communicated better.
Q. What advice would you give a military spouse experiencing similar challenges?
A. I tell military wives to keep that line of communication as open as possible. Then, if something is wrong, a spouse will immediately know. I wish I had stood firmer with Jeff and said, “No, you’re going to get help” when he resisted. Don’t just let things be.
Hall recommends people dealing with reintegration check out the free resources offered through the Real Warriors Campaign and the Defense Centers of Excellence, such as the Outreach Center’s live chat. The feature instantly connects users with trained health resource consultants who can help with psychological health concerns.
Click here to view the Real Warriors and Families video profile featuring the Hall family.
(This post originally appeared on the Defense Centers of Excellence blog.)
By Elaine Wilson
Dec. 29, 2010
The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury has released its monthly webinar series schedule for 2011, and officials there hope the topics will interest everyone from servicemembers and their families to medical professionals.
The webinar series presents resources and best practices regarding TBI and psychological health care and offers participants an interactive environment to ask questions or comment. This past year, the series featured topics such as family support techniques, combating stigma, suicide prevention and reintegration programs.
In 2011, topics will range from the impact of war on children to post-traumatic stress disorder in the wake of a natural disaster. Webinars are scheduled from 1 to 4 p.m. EST.
Here’s the complete schedule:
Jan. 27: Peer-to-Peer Support Model Program
Feb. 24: Compassion Fatigue
March 24: Mild Traumatic Brain Injury and Co-occurring Psychological Health Disorders:Focus on Mild Traumatic Brain Injury with Co-occurring Psychological Health Disorders Toolkit
April 28: Indirect Neurotrauma: The Impact of War on Children
May 26: Operational Stress and In Theater Care
June 23: Anatomical/Physiological Changes Secondary to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
July 28: Reintegrative Medicine: Focusing on Family and Clinical Perspective, and Adaptation Following Incident
Aug. 25: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Natural Disasters
Sept. 22: Neuropathophysiology of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury
Oct. 27: Generational Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Post Traumatic Growth
Nov. 17: Holidays Apart from Family
December: No event due to the holidays
Posted by in Family Matters on July 14, 2010
By Elaine Wilson, AFPS
July 14, 2010
I wanted to share information about a new regulation by the Department of Veterans Affairs that will ease the claims process and improve access to health care for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
I hope our military families help spread the word about this regulation change that can only benefit our veterans bearing the invisible wounds of war.
President Barack Obama called the changes a “long-overdue step” in his weekly address.
“I don’t think our troops on the battlefield should have to take notes to keep for a claims application,” Obama said. “And I’ve met enough veterans to know that you don’t have to engage in a firefight to endure the trauma of war.”
Read the rest of this entry »
Jan. 12, 2010
I’ve noticed some great efforts under way this week to spotlight the mental health care needs of servicemembers and their families.
The topic of suicide prevention has taken center stage in Washington, D.C., during the 2010 Suicide Prevention Conference, sponsored by the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.
More than 1,000 military, government and health care officials are attending the weeklong conference, which runs through Jan. 14.
The conference is aimed at ensuring “our warriors and veterans reach and sustain peak performance – on the battlefield and on the home front – physically, psychologically and spiritually,” Army Brig. Gen. Loree K. Sutton, director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, wrote in a letter to conference attendees.
And, in another new development this week, a Defense Department Web site debuted an audio podcast series called “There and Back” that profiles the personal stories of those who have lived through post-deployment stress. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by in Family Matters on December 11, 2009
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.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by in Family Matters on October 27, 2009
By Elaine Wilson, AFPS
Oct. 27, 2009
A few years ago, a military family invited me to their home over July Fourth weekend. The soldier, an Army specialist, had deployed to Iraq a year earlier, but had returned early after explosions damaged his back and ear.
But it was the psychological damage that had the greater impact.
He was on a convoy when a suicide bomber struck. The Iraqi’s car was on fire and when he looked inside for survivors he saw a woman hanging out the back window and a baby engulfed in flames.
He told me that image had never left him. “I hear that baby screaming in my nightmares,” he said in an article I wrote about his experiences.
He later was diagnosed with and treated for post-traumatic stress disorder, an anxiety disorder that can occur after a traumatic event.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by in Family Matters on September 16, 2009
By Elaine Wilson, AFPS
Sept. 16, 2009
Last month, I received several comments on the topic of mental wellness, particularly suicide, and the need for more preventive measures and programs. I’ve seen several articles focusing on the mental well-being of servicemembers and their families lately — it’s definitely a big concern for defense leaders — and wanted to pass on the highlights of a few of the latest.
In an article on Defense.gov Sept. 16, 2009, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, focused on the need to care for servicemembers and their families dealing with war wounds.
Read the rest of this entry »