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Unique challenges Veterans face and the support our Military community is providing

Of all the dangers that the individuals serving our country face, none has gotten as much attention in recent years as Post Traumatic Stress. Recent spikes in suicidal behavior, depressive symptoms, and substance abuse among service members have sparked an abundance of research and literature on the development, effects of and treatment of Post Traumatic Stress (PTS). While this body of research is still growing, there is a great deal of evidence that an effective means of combating PTS has to do with resiliency.

So what is resiliency? Resiliency is defined as the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity. In military programs, this ‘ability to return to the original form’ is applied to those individuals who are returning to civilian life after adapting to combat situations.

Upon entering the military, each service member is faced with the exciting, yet difficult, task of learning and living by the values of the military. Some of these values include discipline, respect, honor, integrity and duty. Additionally, service members are trained how to perform complicated tasks under enormous amounts of stress. This training enables service members to effectively work, almost as though on autopilot, when faced with the many dangers of combat. New research indicates that, while training might prepare an individual for combat, living under constant threat can also impact individual’s thoughts and behaviors after returning to civilian life.

Several skill sets are thought to affect individuals after they return home: cohesion, discipline, responsibility and tactical awareness.

Free portable support for service members and veterans

These smartphone applications were developed for service members and veterans, their families, and individuals providing them support. The apps listed below focus on identified areas of impact ranging from stress and mood management to tools that help improve quality of care for people with mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). They can be downloaded for free, either through iTunes or the Android Market.
  • Breathe2Relax is a portable stress management tool that includes training on breathing exercises which have been documented to decrease the body’s “fight-or-flight” stress response, mood stabilization, anger control, and anxiety management.

  • PTSD Coach was designed for service members who have or may have post traumatic stress. The app provides the user with education about PTSD, information on professional care, self-assessment, support options, and tools to help manage the stresses of daily life.

  • PTSD Support for Veterans provides support for service members and their families who are struggling with PTSD. Support is provided through informational videos and testimonials, as well as podcasts from professional counselors and psychiatrists discussing PTSD. It also offers opportunities for peer support.

  • T2 Mood Tracker allows users to self-monitor, track, and reference their emotional experiences associated with common deployment-related behavioral health issues like PTSD, brain injury, depression, and anxiety. It allows self-monitoring in multiple forms which can later be shared with medical professionals to improve/enhance treatment.

  • Tactical Breather can be used to gain control over physiological and psychological responses to stress. Benefits of this app include gaining control of heart rate, emotions, concentration, and other physiological and psychological responses during stressful situations.
Find Out More:Visit Brainline Military to learn more about Military smartphone apps. The Soldiers Project is a group of licensed mental health professionals who offer free psychological treatment to military service members (active duty, National Guard, Reservists and veterans) who have served or who expect to serve in the conflicts in Iraq or Afghanistan. Call toll-free 877-576-5343 or visit http://www.thesoldiersproject.org/

Where cohesion during service translates to strong connections and belonging, a service member who returns home may feel a loss of connection or a sense of being left out due to the challenges of connecting or reconnecting with individuals who have not shared the service related experiences. Tactical awareness is superbly useful during service to alert one to danger, yet in the absence of war this skill can create a barrier in developing relationships or returning to a healthy social life. These phenomena are only a small sample of the challenges faced by returning service members. Simply removing the individual from danger will not discontinue him or her from the survival skill of being hyper-aware. Often times, the transition from combat environments to home comes with unique challenges that are not addressed until they begin negatively affecting the service member. It is for this reason that awareness of resources that can reduce or remove impact is such a critical aspect of supporting our service members and veterans.

Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness

There have been a number of programs developed to increase and improve resiliency; one such program is Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness. Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness (CSF2) is driving initiatives aimed at teaching resilience and building psychological strength among army servicemen. Beyond physical strengths and abilities, CSF2 teaches the importance of strengthening emotional, social, spiritual and family support. The vision of CSF2 is to build physically healthy and psychologically strong service members, family members, and civilians whose resilience and total fitness allows them to thrive both in the military as well as in the civilian sector.

One thing that the program strongly emphasizes is meta-cognition. Meta-cognition is the art of thinking about how you think. It is CFS’s belief that once a service member better understands why he or she thinks and acts a certain way, they are better poised to shift thoughts and actions to reflect positive choices. The ultimate goal of CSF2 is not simply to prevent the development of PTS, but to also limit the negative impact of trauma and stress on service members returning from deployment.

Are you a service member who would like assistance in transitioning from service or a civilian looking for ways to support a service member whom you care about? If so, select one of the below organizations for more information.

Resources Focused on Supporting a Returning Service Member or Veteran

One of the core projects through Defense Centers of Excellence is the website afterdeployment.org. Serving as a behavioral health resource, the site supports service members and their families with post-deployment challenges including: PTS, depression, sleep disturbances and substance abuse. In addition to presenting a forum to discuss emerging issues, afterdeployment.org provides links to resources to include health and wellness, resilience and spirituality. The resilience topic on afterdeployment.org allows users to complete an assessment relating to his or her ability to manage stress and adapt to adversity.

Real Warriors
The Real Warriors Campaign was created through the Defense Centers of Excellence and is a public awareness initiative aimed at encouraging service members, veterans and military families to seek help for the invisible wounds (PTS, TBI) associated with service. By visiting RealWarriors.net, users can locate resources within the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force that support active duty as well as veteran service members and their families.

National Resource Directory
The National Resource Directory (NRD.gov) connects service members, wounded warriors, veterans and their families with people, programs and organizations who support them. The site provides links to programs including education and training, employment and health as well as allows users to search their directory for resources.

The Future of Resilience in the Military

Advances in technology and warfare mean that more veterans are returning from war than have in previous wars. Additionally, more veterans are serving multiple deployments and have repeated, prolonged combat exposure. With the evolution of our military come unique, never before accounted for challenges. In an effort to curb the long-term effects of combat exposure, the military is focusing on building and strengthening resilience among our men and women in uniform. By doing so, our military is better supported in making the transition from the war zone to the home front.

By Ashley Wayman

Get help or find out more

Operational and Combat Stress Control Resources:

Comprehensive Service member and Family Fitness 2 Resources:

Tactical Breathing:
Grossman, D. & Christensen, L. (2004). On Combat: The psychology and physiology of deadly conflict in war and peace. PPCT Research Publications.

To Download Tactical Breather:

For more information and resources, check out Ashford University’s Military Resource page


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