Psychological issues key part of recent military health summit
Public Health Service Cmdr. Robin Toblin with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research was one of the more than 1,700 health care providers and policy makers from the Military Health System, the Department of Veterans Affairs, academia and commercial research companies who met in person and virtually during the recent Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury Summit held at the Defense Health Headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia. (DCoE photo by Terry Welch)
RECOMmended Content:Mental Health Care, Traumatic Brain Injury
THe U.S. constantly faces challenges to the psychological health of troops returning from war and missions putting their lives at risk.
“We’ve seen fewer and fewer severely injured service members, but the number [of those needing care] hasn’t gone to zero,” said Dr. Karen Guice, acting assistant secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. “There’s still a great need for the work we do on traumatic brain injury and psychological health.”
Guice made these remarks during the recent Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) Summit in Falls Church, Virginia. The conference brought together more than 1,700 health care providers and policy makers from the Military Health System (MHS), the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), academia and commercial research companies to discuss issues regarding psychological health and brain injuries for active-duty service members, veterans and their families.
New therapies used in group sessions are ways the MHS is continuing its work toward improving the psychological health of its beneficiaries. Kendra Jorgensen-Wagers and Joseph Maio, both working in brain injury and trauma areas of the U.S. military’s Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, explained how cognitive processing therapy, a method that teaches patients how to evaluate and change their own upsetting thoughts, and thus, change how they feel, has been successful in group sessions for those recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder. What the patient is doing and how that person is responding to a treatment is shared directly with the patient and lets them learn as they work through the most significant points.
“Having the patients review this gives them a very tangible report of their own progress,” said Jorgensen-Wagers.
The conference also explored the psychological health of caregivers. Amanda Wood, a clinical psychologist with the VA’s Puget Sound Health Care System, said a recent survey showed more than three-quarters of all providers experienced emotional exhaustion, and that, in turn, impacted the quality of care they gave patients. Working with DCoE’s National Center for Telehealth & Technology, they’ve developed a Providers Resilience Mobile app that gives caregivers tools to avoid burnout.
“The goal of the app is to provide the user with some self-assessment and stress management tools they can use when they need them,” said Wood, adding most of the users found it appealing. “This app is something you can use where you’re at.”
Navy Capt. Mike Colston, DCoE’s director, said the three-day summit is important to further the exchange of information on psychological health and TBI.
“We have a very large portfolio on both subjects,” said Colston. “This is a great way that we reach out to the services and get our information out there.”