By Susan Huseman
Special to American Forces Press Service
Every soldier headed to Iraq and Afghanistan receives â€œBattlemindâ€ training designed to help them deal with combat experiences, but few know the science behind the program.
Consequently, Dr. Amy Adler, a senior research psychologist with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Researchâ€™s U.S. Army Medical Research Unit Europe, in Heidelberg, Germany, visited Patch Barracks here, breaking down the program, which is a system of support and intervention.
The Battlemind system includes separate pre-deployment training modules for soldiers, unit leaders, health care providers and spouses. Psychological debriefings are given in theater and upon redeployment. There are also a post-deployment module for spouses and several post-deployment modules for soldiers.
Not every soldier who deploys is at risk for mental health problems; the main risk factor is the level of combat experienced, Adler explained to her audience of medical, mental health and family support professionals.
Army studies show the greater the combat exposure a soldier encounters, the greater the risk for mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anger and relationship problems. When soldiers first return home, they may not notice any problems; sometimes it takes a few months for problems to develop.
For those in the medical community, â€œour challenge was how to develop interventions that can get at all these things,â€ the doctor recalled. â€œHow do you develop a mental health training of some sort thatâ€™s going to prevent that eventual increase over time?
â€œWe realized we needed to develop some kind of alternative,â€ Adler continued. â€œThere was no existing mental health training that made sense for these sets of questions. Itâ€™s not like there was something off the shelf in civilian literature that would begin to address this.â€
Post-deployment health briefings didnâ€™t specifically target soldiers going into combat and coming back with adjustment challenges, so researchers at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research began to define their objectives for a mental health training program. Adler said the team needed to develop something that was â€œgoing to make sense for different phases of the deployment cycle.â€
â€œFor example,â€ she said, â€œthe existing mental health brief (at the time) was the same for pre- and post-deployment. That doesnâ€™t make sense. The challenges are different.â€
â€œSecondly,â€ she continued, â€œwe wanted to make sure it was integrated. If we tell somebody something at (pre-(deployment), we want to make sure whatever theme weâ€™re going for or concept weâ€™re trying to communicate, itâ€™s going to connect with the same information that weâ€™re going to talk about at (post-deployment).â€
The result? Battlemind, a term used to describe combat readiness that the researchers felt was appropriate for the training they were designing. Adler called it a soldierâ€™s inner strength to face fear and adversity in combat with courage, labeling it â€œresiliency.â€
The Battlemind system is built on findings from surveys and interviews given to soldiers and Marines returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, many of the researchers themselves have deployed.
The research team gathered soldiersâ€™ accounts of specific events and incidents, turning them into teaching tools that warriors can relate to. â€œSome of these stories tell more than any briefing ever could,â€ Adler said.
The first Battlemind product was a mental health post-deployment briefing. It quickly became a training system supporting soldiers and families across the seven phases of the deployment cycle.
As part of her presentation here, Adler discussed various challenges in developing a relevant pre-deployment mental health briefing for soldiers.
â€œYou have 45 minutes, maybe an hour, to tell soldiers, before they deploy to Iraq, something about mental health,â€ she said. â€œWhat are you going to tell them? You donâ€™t want to sugarcoat it, but you donâ€™t want to teach them a whole lot of new information right at a time when they are focused on the task ahead of them.â€
The researchers first chose to identify the reality of combat and deployment. It may sound rudimentary, but earlier research found that soldiers were not telling other soldiers what to expect. Soldiers didnâ€™t want to sound as if they were bragging, Adler said.
Pre-deployment Battlemind tells soldiers what they are likely to see, to hear, to think and to feel while deployed by describing the worst-case scenario.
For the post-deployment phase, Battlemind addresses safety concerns and relationship issues, normalizes combat-related mental health reactions and symptoms, and teaches soldiers when they should seek mental health support for themselves or for their buddies.
The researchers realized that this post-deployment briefing, the original Battlemind, was not enough. The soldiers they talked to were raw, edgy and angry. Another training program, Battlemind II, was developed to be given three to six months into redeployment.
The system reemphasizes normal reactions and symptoms related to combat and â€œBattlemind checks,â€ which are signs that indicate mental health support is needed.
â€œIf youâ€™re still carrying a weapon around with you during the three- to six-month post-deployment phase, â€¦ if youâ€™re still looking around for snipers, if your sleep is still really messed up, these might be signs that your transition is not going smoothly,â€ she explained. â€œThese are signs that you need to get help.â€
Table of contents for PTSD
- Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- What is Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
- PTSD, Mild TBI Chain Teaching Begins at Pentagon
- Treatments for PTSD
- Who Is Major Gamal Awad – Surprising Answers
- Victory Clinic Combats Stress, Anxiety
- Dealing With Brain Injuries
- Battlemind training
- A Woman on a Mission
- Helping Soldiers Cope With PTSD
- Purple Heart for PTSD?
- Little Miracles in Treating Combat Stress
- Americaâ€™s Heroes at Work
- SEALs Spearhead Resiliency Program
- Elmendorf Medics Treat TBI Victims
- Combatting Stress in Iraq
- More on Army Suicide Prevention
- New PTSD Program at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center
- Soldier conquors suicide thoughts
- Marines go to the dogs
- Progress in the Treatment of Traumatic Brain Injuries
- Fort Hood massacre survivors cope in Iraq
- National Naval Medical Center’s psychological health – traumatic brain injury team
- One Airman’s PTSD Story
This entry was posted on Friday, January 4th, 2008 at 10:00 am and is filed under Medicine, Military, War on Terror. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.