Military docs share breakthrough findings in mental health, brain injury treatment

| July 7, 2011 | 0 Comments
(From left to right) Lt. Col. Kirk Phillips, behavioral health consultant for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan; Navy Capt. Michael McCarten, commanding officer, NATO, Role 3 Multinational Medical Unit; and Navy Rear Adm. David Smith, chief of the International Security Assistance Force, Combined-Joint Medical Branch, listen to a brief during the inaugural Behavioral Health and Concussion Care Conference at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, June 25.

(From left to right) Lt. Col. Kirk Phillips, behavioral health consultant for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan; Navy Capt. Michael McCarten, commanding officer, NATO, Role 3 Multinational Medical Unit; and Navy Rear Adm. David Smith, chief of the International Security Assistance Force, Combined-Joint Medical Branch, listen to a brief during the inaugural Behavioral Health and Concussion Care Conference at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, June 25.

Story and Photo by
Sgt. Edward A. Garibay
16th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Psychotherapy teleconferencing is part of PTSD discussion 

KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — Among all the injuries service members sustain during a combat deployment, the most common are concussions, post-traumatic stress and other difficult-to-detect behavioral health issues.

Studies show that anywhere between 10 and 20 percent of deployed service members will sustain a concussion, said Col. Jamie Grimes, theater neurologist, “Task Force 44 Medical Brigade,” recently.

“If you think about the 1.6 million service members who have already deployed, even 10 percent is a very large number,” Grimes said. “Without the right systems of detection in place, they’re at greater risk of being sent back into the fight too early.”

Unfortunately, the most significant findings about battle injury treatments are not published until months or even years after a combat health professional returns from a deployment, said Navy Cmdr. Benjamin Griffeth, head of mental health, Role 3 Multinational Medical Unit, here.

Service members are working to break these traditions.

Nearly 100 military health care professionals from across Afghanistan met, here, to discuss their cutting-edge findings and innovative techniques for behavioral health and concussion care, June 24. It was the first time such an event has occurred in Afghanistan.

“This conference represents military medicine moving forward,” Griffeth said. “You’re seeing a multinational group meet, in real time, to discuss, ‘How can we do what we do better?’ It’s not, ‘What could we have done three years ago,’ it’s, ‘What are we going to start doing tomorrow, for the Soldier serving right now?’”

The conference brought service members from private first class to rear admiral together to discuss real cases from the combat zone.

“Just being here, surrounded by all these professionals, I get to learn a lot,” said Pfc. Stephanie Lora-Surun, behavioral health specialist, Company C, 325th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. “Bookwork is bookwork. I can read it, but getting told how to actually deal with a patient, it’s a huge benefit since … I’m seeing Soldiers with symptoms and problems related to war.”

Grimes said that first-line Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, like Lora-Surun, have the most influence when it comes to prevention and identification.

Typical service members are more willing to listen to someone they know — rather than a television commercial or a high-ranking stranger — to get the help they need.

One of the most innovative ideas discussed during the conference was the concept of psychotherapy teleconferencing, a video chat counseling session that works like Skype. With the new technology, Soldiers would be able to speak with a psychologist, instantly, from anywhere in the world.

Military psychologists are already putting the idea to use and making this service available to service members currently deployed in hostile areas.

 

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Category: Deployed Forces, Health, News

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