New technology helps assess, improve mental health

| July 8, 2016 | 0 Comments
Several free mental health apps are available for to reduce stress from several sources, including the National Center for Telehealth and Technology. (Photo by Christine Cabalo, Oahu Publications)

Several free mental health apps are available for to reduce stress from several sources, including the National Center for Telehealth and Technology. (Photo by Christine Cabalo, Oahu Publications)

Military Health System Communications Office
News Release

A typical day in our modern world can involve a considerable amount of stress and anxiety.

In an effort to help service members — and their families — better cope with such pressures, the National Center for Telehealth and Technology (T2) develops psychological health-based mobile applications and websites. Several are free to access and download.

One app, called Breathe2Relax, teaches how to reduce tension by breathing from the diaphragm, a deeper type of breathing that helps to induce a calming response in widely different circumstances. Breathe2Relax is designed to help with symptoms of PTSD and panic attacks, or during processes such as smoking cessation and childbirth.

“Breathe2Relax is a great tool to control your own anxiety,” said David Cooper, a psychologist and mobile applications lead at T2. “It allows you to activate the body’s rest and relaxation system, as opposed to the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism people often employ when dealing with stressful situations or environments. And the really good thing about it is you can do this without anyone really knowing.”

Another T2 app mentioned by Cooper is Virtual Hope Box (VHB), which has tools to help patients with coping, relaxation, distraction and positive thinking.

The center received a 2014 Department of Defense Innovation Award for the development of VHB and its unique application of technology in supporting behavioral health in service members and military families.

Resources from T2 for military families help them deal with transitions that cause stress, including deployments, homecomings, reintegration, relocations and transitioning to civilian life.

Moving from one duty station to another can produce anxiety in military children. Cooper said The Big Moving Adventure mobile app makes relocation fun for small children who are ages 2 to 5. The app was developed with Sesame Workshop, the developers of “Sesame Street” who are nonprofit educational organization. The Sesame Street-themed app helps them better deal with things like saying goodbye and making new friends.

“Working with Sesame Workshop to develop this tool, we were able to make the process of moving more of an adventure, and less of a chore,” Cooper said. “While mom and dad are dealing with their own issues associated with moving, they don’t always have time to give their kids a good idea of all that’s going on. A tool like this is good for explaining the situation in a way kids can perhaps better understand and appreciate.”

Another family resource created by T2 is the Military Kids Connect (MKC) website, an online community that provides access to age-appropriate resources supporting children ages 6 to 17 as they deal with the unique psychological challenges of military life. The site offers informative activities, games, helpful videos and an online community that can build and reinforce understanding, resilience and coping skills.

“The great thing about these applications and web tools is that they allow us to have a much bigger impact with our target population,” said Cooper. “For instance, Breathe2Relax has been downloaded more than 300,000 times. I could never see that many patients in my entire scope of practice. The technology and applications we’re developing at T2 are really helping us provide better overall care.”

At the same time, physicians note that an app is not a substitute for direct medical care and, if needed, people should seek professional help.

Category: Community, Health

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