For July’s Performance Optimization Month, we’ll be posting pre-deployment tips for service members, families, providers and members of the reserve components in a four-part blog series. Our “Before Boots Hit the Ground” series will feature resources from the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE) and its component centers.
When Real Warrior Retired Air Force Staff Sgt. Stacy Pearsall deployed for the second time, she had a wealth of knowledge on the prevention and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after seeking help with her own psychological concerns during her first tour.
“When I went back to Iraq, I felt that I had adequate coping skills for PTSD,” she said. “Seeking help is a sign of strength.”
Now Pearsall is involved in programs that teach service members resilience tactics and how to prepare for and cope with potential psychological health concerns on the battlefield.
DCoE and its component centers offer tools and resources that can be used to help service members as they prepare for deployment.
The Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress offers the resource “Dealing with the Effects of Trauma — A Self Help Guide.” The guide contains strategies on preventing psychological health concerns and lists signs and symptoms one should be aware of when self-assessing health on the battlefield.
Militaryonesource.com connects service members in all phases of deployment with face-to-face, telephone or online counseling with trained psychological health professionals, as well as readiness guides for all services.
The Deployment Health Clinical Center features a pre-deployment support resource, pre-deployment health assessment, fact-sheets on mental health readiness and links to resources and websites that can help a service member prepare for an upcoming tour.
With new mobile phone applications developed by the National Center for Telehealth and Technology, deployed service members can track their emotions and practice coping techniques from the palms of their hands. Breathe2Relax is a portable stress management application for iPhone that teaches users diaphragmatic breathing exercises that are proven to help with psychological resilience and management of concerns.
The T2 Mood Tracker application, available for both iPhone and Android phones, allows users to self-monitor their emotional experience during their deployment, providing a record of their moods to detect changes that might need reaching out to a deployed health provider.
In their “Before Deployment” section, Real Warriors Campaign offers tips on developing psychological resilience, such as maintaining healthy sleeping habits while deployed, relaxation techniques and taking advantage of service-specific deployment trainings.
Real Warriors also features video profiles of service members and veterans discussing their journeys with psychological concerns while deployed—an experience that Pearsall found very beneficial in her outreach to other service members.
“I found that by sharing my story and my experiences, I can help others deal with theirs,” she said.