Seek Help, Take Care of Yourselves

By COL Jim Rice, AW2 Director

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and was created to increase awareness about behavioral health and reduce stigma. As is true in the civilian sector, the Army also has a stigma associated with behavioral health. Stigma prevents many Soldiers, Veterans, and Families from seeking help. There are many resources to reach to for professional assistance, here are a few examples:

Families and caregivers need support as well to avoid compassion fatigue. In order to help others, take care of yourselves. For some helpful tips found on the Real Warriors website to help build resilience, see below:

  • Focus on the positive impact of what you are doing
  • Talk to your colleagues/Family for support
  • Set boundaries for yourself
  • Stay physically fit
  • Avoid comparing yourself with others
  • Be patient with yourself
  • Find tools for resilience

Participate in DCoE’s Webinar on Sports, the Military, and Recurrent Concussion

By Dr. Lolita O’Donnell, Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) for Psychological Health (PH) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

For many Americans, sports players and servicemembers are two of this nation’s most iconic images. On Thursday, March 25, from 1-3 p.m. EST, these two topics will be brought together during the Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) for Psychological Health (PH) and Traumatic Brain Injury’s (TBI) webinar “Sports, the Military and Recurrent Concussion.”

An overview of the current state of sports-related concussions including emerging science of recurrent concussion will be discussed, along with collaborations between the sports and military communities to change the clinical guidelines and culture surrounding these injuries. Speakers will include CDR Scott Pyne, Navy Sports Medicine Leader from the Office of the Medical Inspector General and COL Michael S. Jaffee, National Director of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center.

All servicemembers, Family members, government employees, health care providers, subject matter experts, and anyone interested in this topic are encouraged to join.

To register for this event or for more information please email: DCoE.MonthlyWebinar@tma.osd.mil.

AW2 Weekly Digest March 1-5

  • AW2 Soldier PVT Joshua Lindsey was featured in Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an article about the community and a nonprofit organization coming together to build him a house.
  • AW2 Veteran Shannon Meehan, featured on CNN, discussed post-traumatic stress disorder and his current endeavors.
  • AW2 Veteran Pedro “Pete” Perez, featured in the Herald Tribune, is more hopeful today than at any time since his injury day because of a yellow Labrador retriever.

The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of the linked web sites, or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) sites, the United States Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations.

Continued Healing and Recovery from Brain Injuries

By COL Jim Rice, AW2 Director

DCoE is working to tear down the stigma that still deters some from seeking treatment for problems such as PTSD and TBI with their Real Warriors Campaign.

DCoE is working to tear down the stigma that still deters some from seeking treatment for problems such as PTSD and TBI with their Real Warriors Campaign.

There are some things that will require AW2’s continued support and steadfast resolve—such as the Army’s commitment to provide the finest healthcare to our AW2 Soldiers and Veterans with brain injuries. This year, as we recognize National Brain Injury Awareness Month, we again recognize that many of our men and women in uniform continue to make sacrifices that are as varied, as they are commendable. With those sacrifices, however, come some inescapable realities. Among them, are the ever present possibilities of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Throughout the medical arena, great strides are being made toward improving the care and support of our Army’s wounded warriors. Military Treatment Facilities and Veterans Affairs Polytrauma Centers continue to lead the way in researching, diagnosing, and facilitating mechanisms that help identify and treat Soldiers with TBI. The Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury is working to establish best practices and quality standards for the treatment of psychological health and TBI and promote the resilience, recovery, and reintegration of warriors and their Families. In addition, DCoE is working to tear down the stigma that still deters some from seeking treatment for problems such as PTSD and TBI with their Real Warriors Campaign. This around the clock commitment to provide specialized care and treatment to those who struggle with what may well require long-term medical care, is matched only by the fervor in which sound answers and treatment are pursued.

In a world of uncertainty, we can still hope for continued healing and recovery from brain injuries that have become synonymous with our current conflicts. Whether TBI conditions are diagnosed as mild, moderate, or severe, AW2 Soldiers suffering from traumatic events and injuries can find solace in knowing that the horizon is brighter because of the Army’s commitment to support wounded warriors and their Families for as long as it takes.

Give an Hour Provides Free Counseling

By Barbara Van Dahlen, Ph.D., Founder & President of Give an Hour

Give an Hour is a national nonprofit organization delivering free mental health counseling services to active duty service members, members of our National Guard and Reserve forces, and Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who have separated or retired from any branch of military service.  In addition to these military personnel and their spouses and children, Give an Hour offers services to parents, siblings, and unmarried partners.  Through our network of nearly 5,000 providers nationwide, we aim to provide easy access to skilled professionals offering a wide range of services including:

  • individual, marital, and family therapy
  • substance abuse counseling
  • treatment for post-traumatic stress
  • counseling for individuals with traumatic brain injuries

Returning combat Veterans suffering from depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress are not routinely seeking the mental health treatment they need.  Many fear that seeking mental health services will jeopardize their career or standing.  Given the military culture’s emphasis on confidence, strength, and bravery, others are reluctant to expose their vulnerabilities to counselors who are often military personnel themselves.  By providing free and confidential services that are separate from the military establishment, we offer an essential option for men and women who might otherwise fail to seek or receive appropriate services.

AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Family members in need of services can visit www.giveanhour.org and use a zip-code finder to locate a provider in his or her area.  Give an Hour is a participant in the AW2 Community Support Network.

The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of the linked web sites, or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) sites, the United States Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: What May Help You

As of February 2010, 39% of AW2 Soldiers and Veterans suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Medical professionals are treating PTSD with several different kinds of therapy, counseling, and medications which have proven to be effective. There are alternative therapies and experiences that may also aid in lessoning PTSD symptoms. Please always consult your physician before trying anything new in your treatment. Here are some things that you may want to consider:

Yoga
Several Army posts and military treatment facilities have started teaching yoga classes. It may seem to be a strange idea, but it actually makes a lot of sense. Yoga uses meditation, deep relaxation, stretching, and breathing to reduce physical, emotional, and mental tension. Many people have found it useful in keeping them relaxed, thereby, allowing them to deal with anxiety caused by traumatic events. Some experts believe that therapists treating psychological trauma need to work with the body as well as the mind. Yoga may provide a safe and gentle means of becoming reacquainted with the body and allow people to confront their internal sensations. A study of active-duty Soldiers with PTSD who took yoga found that they were able to sleep better, felt less depressed, felt more comfortable with situations that they couldn’t control, and as a result, felt more control over their lives. If interested, ask your physician about Army or VA locations offering this service.

Service Animals
Service animals are helping people with behavioral health issues live their lives. For example, dogs can wake a person having bad dreams, give a gentle nudge when a person is stressed, and even find misplaced medications. Many people find that service animals allow them to perform daily activities that they couldn’t before, such as running errands. A recent survey showed that 82 percent of PTSD patients with a service dog had a decrease in symptoms, and 40 percent had a decrease in the medication usage. The Department of Defense (DOD) is even starting a 12-month study to find out exactly how the dogs help by comparing Soldiers with PTSD who have dogs with a similar group of Soldiers without a dog. Numerous nonprofit organizations provide service dogs to Soldiers and Veterans at no charge, visit the AW2 Community Support Network Web page for a listing http://www.aw2.army.mil/supporters/index.html.

Theater of War
“Theater of War” is a DOD project designed to remove stigma related to psychological injuries by illustrating how war heroes in history have lived with the psychological effects of battle. The goal of the project is to help military audiences confront and discuss the emotional and psychological effects of combat and war, and the challenges of homecoming. Performances include a dramatic reading of selected scenes from the plays “Ajax” and “Philoctetes” by Sophocles, performed by a rotating cast of film and stage actors. The reading is followed by a town-hall discussion with the audience and a panel of members from the local military community. The Army has sponsored several performances, and 100 performances in 50 military venues are scheduled in the next year. For more information on future performances at Army bases, visit Theater of War at http://www.theater-of-war.com/.

For more information on PTSD and treatment options, visit the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury at http://www.dcoe.health.mil/ForHealthPros/PTSDTreatmentOptions.aspx.

References:

Yoga

Reeves, Steve. “Yoga Helps Vets Find Balance.” Army News. 7 Jan. 2010. http://www.army.mil/-news/2010/01/07/32565-yoga-helps-vets-find-balance/.

Wills, Denise Kersten. “Healing Life’s Traumas.” Yoga Journal. http://www.yogajournal.com/health/2532.

Service Animals

Suchetka, Diane. “Giving Comfort, Courage to Heal: Psychiatric Service Dogs Offer Patients New Life Outlook.” The Plain Dealer. 26 Jan. 2010. http://www.cleveland.com/healthfit/index.ssf/2010/01/giving_comfort_
courage_to_heal.html.

Gardner, Amanda. “Service Dogs Help Traumatized Veterans Heal.” U.S. News & World Report. 3 Sept. 2009. http://www.usnews.com/health/family-health/brain-and-behavior/articles/2009/09/03/service-dogs-help-traumatized-veterans-heal.html.

Theater of War

Theater of War. Army Stand-To. 26 Jan. 2010. http://www.army.mil/standto/archive/2010/01/26/.

The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of the linked web sites, or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) sites, the United States Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations.

Employing Veterans with Invisible Wounds

The Associated Press recently ran a great story highlighting the Army’s efforts to educate employers about hiring wounded warriors who have “invisible wounds” or behavioral health illnesses such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs). The article calls attention to the need for employers to make accommodations for Veterans with both visible and invisible wounds:

The Army’s Wounded Warrior Program, which helps veterans adjust to civilian life, has been reaching out to employers to educate them and encourage them to hire former soldiers with invisible wounds…

“Employers find it easier to accommodate those physical disabilities. They can get special equipment,” said Sue Maloney, who works with veterans in the Wounded Warrior Program in the Seattle area. But “you can’t always see the wounds or the injuries.”

The article shows some of the ways that employers can accommodate Veterans who have PTSD and TBIs through the example of Richard Martin, a 48-year-old engineer and former Army National Guard Major, who now works for Northrop Grumman. When Martin was hired, Northrop Grumman consulted occupational nurses on how to help him do his job. Martin also helped himself by using noise canceling headphones to keep him from getting distracted, sticky notes to remind him of things, and by placing a rearview mirror on his desk so he isn’t startled when co-workers come up behind him.

In addition to these accommodations, there are many others that employers can make to assist Veterans with “invisible wounds” to successfully transition to the civilian workforce. To learn more about the types of accommodations that employers can make, I talked with AW2 Career Coordinator Scott Cox in our headquarters about the topic.

“There are a number of accommodations that employers can easily make, at little to no cost, to assist Veterans with PTSD and TBIs,” said Scott Cox. “Most employers make these types of accommodations everyday for their existing workforce. Wounded Veterans bring a tremendous amount of experiences and skills that employers seek. Employers just need more information on how to support Veterans with invisible injuries.”

Scott Cox then shared a list of accommodations that employers can provide to assist Veterans with PTSD, TBIs, and other behavioral health issues from the Job Accommodation Network. Below are some of the highlights:

  • Provide space enclosures or a private space
  • Allow the employee to play soothing music using a headset
  • Divide large assignments into smaller goal oriented tasks or steps
  • Allow longer or more frequent work breaks as needed
  • Provide additional time to learn new responsibilities
  • Allow for time off for counseling
  • Give assignments, instructions, or training in writing or via e-mail
  • Provide detailed day-to-day guidance and feedback
  • Develop strategies to deal with problems before a crisis occurs
  • Allow employee to work from home part-time
  • Provide disability awareness training to coworkers and supervisors
  • Use stress management techniques to deal with frustration
  • Allow telephone calls during work hours to doctors and others for needed support
  • Provide a place for the employee to sleep during break
  • Provide straight shift or permanent schedule
  • Count one occurrence for all PTSD-related absences
  • Allow the employee to make up the time missed
  • Identify and remove environmental triggers such as particular smells or noises

For the complete list, click here to visit the Job Accommodation Network Web site.

As you can see, many of these accommodations aren’t all that different from those that employers already make for many employees in their workforce. However, it is important to remember that each case is different, as Scott Cox pointed out in our conversation, “Every wounded Veteran is different and the accommodations made should be tailored to that particular Veteran’s needs. AW2 works with employers to help ensure that the experience is rewarding for both the hiring organization and the Veteran.”

If you are an employer interested in hiring a Veteran with invisible wounds, please contact an AW2 Career  Coordinator via email at AW2careerprogram@conus.army.mil or call (703) 325-0579.

Real Warriors Campaign Launches New PSAs

Recently, the Real Warriors Campaign, which is sponsored by the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, launched four new public service announcements (PSAs) to help combat the stigma associated with seeking treatment for psychological health concerns. The spots highlight the stories of an U.S. Army Major and an Army Reservist who received treatment for psychological health concerns and are maintaining successful military careers.

Click the play buttons below to view the YouTube versions of the PSAs that showcase U.S. Army Soldiers MAJ Hall and SSG Krause:





If you are unable to access YouTube from your military installation, you can also view the PSAs on the RealWarriors.net Web site or view them on TroopTube.tv, which is a YouTube-like service provided by Military One Source.Through their PSAs, Real Warriors like MAJ Hall and SSG Krause are proving to their fellow service members that they are not alone, resources are available—and they work, and that reaching out makes a difference.

The Real Warriors Campaign is a multimedia public education campaign designed to combat the stigma associated with seeking treatment for psychological health and traumatic brain injury (TBI) concerns. The campaign makes reaching out easier by providing access to psychological health information and resources 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Individuals can chat online with psychological health consultants through the campaign Web site, or call toll free at 866-966-1020), and is available any time, day or night.

Army Indentifies Crisis Intervention Resources

–By Department of the Army–

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 2, 2009) — Soldiers, Army civilians and their families in need of crisis intervention now have two resources to call for assistance, as the Army has identified Military OneSource and the Defense Center of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury as primary phone and online services to support our Army community.

The Military OneSource crisis intervention line supports active-duty, National Guard and Reserve servicemembers and their families, 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Professionally trained consultants assess a caller’s needs and can refer them to health care professionals for follow-up, face-to-face counseling.

The Military OneSource toll-free number for those residing in the continental U.S. is 1-800-342-9647, their Web site can be found at http://www.militaryonesource.com. Overseas personnel should refer to the Military OneSource Web site for dialing instructions for their specific location.

Another key crisis intervention resource available for our Army community is the DCOE Outreach Center. The Outreach Center is staffed 24/7/365 by health resource consultants with the latest information on psychological health and TBI issues and who can connect Soldiers, family members and veterans with agencies that promote recovery, resiliency and reintegration.

The DCOE Outreach Center can be contacted at 1-866-966-1020, via electronic mail at Resources@DCoEOutreach.org and at http://www.dcoe.health.mil/resources.aspx.

“We want to get the word out and identify Military One Source and the DCOE Outreach Center as primary resources for those who need help,” said Brig. Gen. Colleen McGuire, director of the Suicide Prevention Task Force.

“Leaders, mental health professionals and public affairs officers should include this in their messaging and support at the local level. I would love to see this toll-free number posted on every Army Web site,” she said.

Army leaders are taking a proactive approach to connect Soldiers and families in crisis situations with the right services. The idea behind these measures is that mitigating crises early on can help Soldiers appropriately handle the unique stresses they will face, McGuire added.

“What we need to continue working on the hardest is to find new ways to bring (mental health care providers) down to a level where Soldiers have easier access to them,” said Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, Army vice chief of staff.

“Our next step is to ensure that we disseminate the Military OneSource toll-free number and the DCOE Outreach Center toll-free number to Soldiers, civilians and family members through all possible media and have it posted in every venue,” said Col. Jon Dahms, chief of planning support in Army Public Affairs. “We need these numbers staring everyone in the face so they can get the help when and where they need it most.”

Dahms recommends Army Web sites integrate a prominent banner or message into their current layout showing the toll-free numbers and the message “In need of crisis intervention and support? Do you or someone you know need help?

Call 1-800-342-9647 or visit Military OneSource at http://www.militaryonesource.com, or call 1-866-966-1020 or visit the DCOE Outreach Center at http://www.dcoe.health.mil/resources.aspx.”

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SOURCE:  Army Stand-To Newsletter, 03 June 2009

Oprah, Puppies, and the Road to Recovery

–By Gina Hill, wife of AW2 Soldier Allen Hill–

Allen Hill and Glenn Close
My husband, Sergeant Allen Hill, was critically injured in Iraq, November 21, 2007.  After spending four months recovering at Walter Reed, Allen has been left with mostly invisible wounds.  He suffers from a TBI, migraines, seizures, and PTSD.  He has lost much of his independence and struggles daily with these invisible wounds.

In October 2008, Allen learned about the Dog tags program from Puppies Behind Bars.  This is a program specifically for OIF/OEF wounded warriors.  PBB utilizes inmates in seven New York area prisons to train service dogs for wounded service members.  The service dogs are then placed with veterans who are struggling with invisible wounds.  These dogs are specifically trained to help them manage their PTSD and TBI related symptoms.

Last February, Allen was placed with his new partner in life, Frankie.  Frankie is a yellow lab, and she has become his best friend.  The bond these two have is unbelievable and was almost immediate.  She is able to help him through flashbacks, nightmares, and many other difficult situations.  With Frankie by his side, Allen has started participating in his life again!

In May, Allen, Frankie, and I had the opportunity to travel to New York to meet the inmate, Roberto, who raised Frankie.  Glenn Close and a film crew from the Oprah Show were there to facilitate and film this very emotional reunion.  We spent an entire day in prison, filming and interacting with the amazing inmates who are giving back to a society they took so much from.  These dogs touch so many lives before they are even 2 years of age!  They help to rehabilitate prisoners serving time for violent crimes and wounded warriors who are suffering for their sacrifice they made for their country!

On May 15, tune into the Oprah Winfrey Show to see more about this amazing story.  You can also go to Fetchdog.com to read more about this day from Glenn Close’s blog Lively Licks and the Fetchdog blog.  To read more about my husband’s road to recovery, please visit our blog, The Invisible Wounded.

Update: Click here to view the video featuring AW2 Soldier Allen Hill on Oprah.com.

Photo (right): Glenn Close, Sergeant Allen Hill, Gina Hill, and Frankie (photo courtesy of Gina Hill).

The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of the linked web sites, or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) sites, the United States Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations.

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