"It's important to remember that simply being deployed carries a great deal of stress," McNally said. "Soldiers miss their family, and those who stay at home essentially become a one-parent family. Difficulties with children, or school or making ends meet there are all kinds of stressors that have to do with separating families, let along having one member in a war zone. Fortunately, the military has taken steps to help soldiers cope with these stressors in addition to the traumatic combat stressors that can produce PTSD."
That cognizance has emerged in the form of the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) program and Battlemind training, programs created, respectively, to help soldiers build the resilience necessary to reduce their risk for PTSD before being deployed, and to treat those at risk of developing the disorder after they return.
"It's not therapy per se, but a preventive intervention to help people put their experiences in perspective," McNally said, of the Battlemind training. "For example, it encourages soldiers to use the sort of emotional bonding that happens within units to reconnect with their families, and to see symptoms like hyper-vigilance not as symptoms of a mental disorder, but as something they need to adjust when they come home. It helps people realize that those things are part of the normal re-adjustment process."
And thus far, McNally said, the evidence suggests that the training has a positive effect. The results of random trials show that, four months after returning home, soldiers who underwent Battlemind training showed fewer symptoms of PTSD and depression than did those who underwent the Army's standard postdeployment program. Unfortunately, no such trials have been conducted with CSF, so it remains unclear what impact, if any, it has on the incidence of PTSD.
|Contact: Peter Reuell|