Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

MHS mental health experts shed light on PTSD

Female soldier with war images superimposed on her head Three Military Health System mental health subject matter experts spoke Thursday during a PTSD media roundtable. It was held to recognize June as PTSD Awareness Month, and to showcase MHS programs and resources connected to PTSD treatment. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration By Senior Airman Erica Fowler)

Recommended Content:

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Post-traumatic stress disorder can be treated long after the triggering event occurs, three Military Health System mental health subject matter experts said Thursday. But all agree getting help as soon as possible avoids health issues that can occur as a result of living with PTSD. And effective psychotherapy treatments are available now, even if people can't meet with providers face to face because of pandemic restrictions.

The experts' comments came during a PTSD media roundtable by telephone. It was held to recognize June as PTSD Awareness Month, and to showcase MHS programs and resources connected to PTSD treatment.

The three experts answering reporters' questions were David Riggs, Ph.D., executive director of the Center for Deployment Psychology at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Maryland; Dr. Robert Ursano, director of USU's Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress; and Public Health Service Lt. Cmdr. Jorielle Houston, Ph.D., clinical psychologist with the Psychological Health Center of Excellence.

PTSD is a mental health condition that can develop after exposure to traumatic events such as threat of injury or death, serious accident, combat, terrorist attack, sexual assault, physical assault, natural disaster, and childhood sexual or physical abuse.

Many individuals with PTSD repeatedly re-experience the traumatic event as flashback episodes, memories, nightmares, or frightening thoughts, especially when exposed to events that remind them of the trauma.

"Over a lifetime, nearly everybody is exposed to a traumatic event," Ursano said. However, not everyone develops PTSD. Variables that put people at risk for it include prior trauma history, lack of social support, suffering an injury as a result of the trauma, and pre-existing mental health issues.

"Mental health has common colds as well as cancers, and PTSD can be both," Ursano said, adding that "the vast number of people …with PTSD are on a recovery trajectory."

The COVID-19 pandemic may be particularly challenging for people with PTSD, Ursano explained. Patients may be feeling an increased sense of isolation, greater irritability, and more conflict with loved ones.

With the challenges of doing face-to-face therapy during physical distancing, "I think it's important for folks to know that … [effective psychotherapies] are able to be delivered using telehealth technologies," Riggs said.

He noted that during the past few months, Department of Defense clinics have seen a decrease in demand for PTSD treatment. This aligns with an overall decreased access to health care during the pandemic, he said.

"When you delay care, you increase your risk" for more severe health issues, he said.

Houston noted that PHCoE seeks social media channels to highlight evidence-based practices including exposure, cognitive processing, and stress inoculation therapies.

Riggs said DoD clinics are "already planning and anticipating the potential increase" after physical distancing rules are lifted, and they expect telehealth use also will increase.

"Some of the clinics are finding that patients actually prefer that option to coming in," he said. "In terms of figuring out how to handle potential or possible increase in demand, it's figuring out how to balance the use of resources for in-person appointments as opposed to telehealth appointments."

In response to a question about whether the proper medical term should be PTSD or post traumatic stress, Houston said she was "more concerned about, how do we figure out what is going on with the symptoms, and the root of the symptoms, than … the label. How do we get service members the help they need? How do we get the family members the help they need? How do we get providers the support they need?"

Houston mentioned DoD initiatives including the Real Warriors and Make the Connection campaigns, which encourage service members to ask for help and recognize that seeking help is a sign of strength. Resources for family members include Military OneSource and Military Kids Connect, which offers age-appropriate resources to support children dealing with the unique psychological challenges of military life.

"We want to continue to spread the message that those who suffer from the fallout of traumatic experiences … are not alone," Houston said. And it doesn't matter if the trauma is related to combat, disease, domestic strife, or personal tragedy, she said.

"You do not need to suffer in silence. There is help. There is comfort. There is hope."

You also may be interested in...

Turn Post-traumatic Stress Into Post-traumatic Growth

Article
6/30/2021
PTSD Infographic

Myths and facts about post-traumatic stress (PTS) and post-traumatic growth (PTG).

Recommended Content:

June Toolkit | PTSD Awareness Month | Total Force Fitness | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD: Seeking out mental health care is the first step to wellness

Article
6/28/2021
A picture of hands folded together

PTSD: What it is and treatments that can help

Recommended Content:

PTSD Awareness Month | Psychological Fitness | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

PTSD: Help is Available

Video
6/24/2021
PTSD Video Infographic

PTSD can happen to anyone. The Military Health System can help you get diagnosed and provide you with evidence-based treatment so you can get your life back. If you're struggling with PTSD, reach out to your local military hospital or clinic and make an appointment today. Learn more at health.mil/ptsd.

Recommended Content:

June Toolkit | PTSD Awareness Month | Psychological Fitness | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

4 Facts About PTSD

Video
6/23/2021

Learn about PTSD symptoms, the benefits of seeking care and get connected to confidential, 24/7 resources.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder | Real Warriors Campaign

Coping with Flashbacks Between Appointments

Video
6/23/2021

Flashbacks can sometimes occur during treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder. Follow these tips to help cope with flashbacks between appointments with a health care provider.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder | Real Warriors Campaign

Busting PTSD Myths Infographic

Publication
6/23/2021

Debunks five common myths about posttraumatic stress disorder and provides resources to help you or a loved one cope with PTSD.

Recommended Content:

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Seeking help from friends and family vital for mental health

Article
12/23/2020
Image of three people on a zoom call

Reaching out for help with your mental health is not a sign of weakness, according to Tim Hoyt.

Recommended Content:

Psychological Fitness | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder | Suicide Prevention

Air Force opens Intrepid Spirit Center at Eglin AFB

Article
9/15/2020
Soldiers holding a long ribbon and cutting it

The EISC...recognizes the need for a medical facility dedicated to invisible wounds.

Recommended Content:

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder | Traumatic Brain Injury

Concussion/mTBI and PTSD Fact Sheet

Fact Sheet
7/30/2020

This fact sheet defines concussion/mild traumatic brain injury and posttraumatic stress disorder and explains how overlapping symptoms often occur. It also describes why it’s important to seek out treatment for both conditions and provides helpful advice on what to tell your family and friends to help in the recovery process.

Recommended Content:

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder | Traumatic Brain Injury | TBI Symptoms | Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | Patient and Family Resources | TBICoE Research

The NICoE: Ten years of Healing ‘The Invisible Wounds of War’

Article
6/30/2020
Image of man hooked up to machine and walking on treadmill

10 years of TBI, PTS care

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder | Centers of Excellence

Invisible wounds: understanding PTSD

Article
6/26/2020
Service member appearing distressed with hand on head.

Identifing symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder and how to seek treatment.

Recommended Content:

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

The Language of Anger and Depression Among Patients with Concussions

Article
6/4/2020
Image of naval captain talking to another military person

Soldiers often do not overtly express their feelings of depression.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder | Anger | Depression

Warm Handoff for Transitioning Servicemembers Suffering from PTSD and TBI

Congressional Testimony
7/8/2019

S. 2987, SASC Report for FY 2019, 115-262, Pg. 203-204

Recommended Content:

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder | Traumatic Brain Injury

Pilot Program on Treatment of Members of the Armed Forces for PTSD Related to Military Sexual Trauma

Congressional Testimony
6/10/2019

H.R. 5515 NDAA Report for FY 2019, Sec. 702

Recommended Content:

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Pilot Program on Investigational Treatment of Members of the Armed Forces for TBI and PTSD

Congressional Testimony
10/9/2018

HR 3304, NDAA for FY 2014, Sec. 704

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | Physical Disability | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
<< < 1 2 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 2

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.