Over the last decade, U.S. military forces have been engaged in extended conflicts that are characterized by increased operational tempo, most notably in Iraq and Afghanistan. While most military personnel cope well across the deployment cycle, many will experience difficulties handling stress at some point; will face psychological health challenges, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression; or will be affected by the short- and long-term psychological and cognitive consequences of a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Over the past several years, the Department of Defense (DoD) has implemented numerous programs that address various components of psychological health along the resilience, prevention, and treatment continuum and focus on a variety of clinical and nonclinical concerns. This article provides detail from an evaluation of 211 programs currently sponsored or funded by DoD to address psychological health and TBI, along with descriptions of how programs relate to other available resources and care settings. It also provides recommendations for clarifying the role of programs, examining gaps in routine service delivery that could be filled by programs, and reducing implementation barriers. Barriers include inadequate funding and resources, concerns about the stigma associated with receiving psychological health services, and inability to have servicemembers spend adequate time in programs. The authors found that there is significant duplication of effort, both within and across branches of service. As each program develops its methods independently, it is difficult to determine which approaches work and which are ineffective. Recommendations include strategic planning, centralized coordination, and information-sharing across branches of service, combined with rigorous evaluation. Programs should be evaluated and tracked in a database, and evidence-based interventions should be used to support program efforts.
Programs addressing psychological health and traumatic brain injury among U.S. military servicemembers and their families
Weinick, R. M., Beckjord, E. B., Farmer, C. M., Martin, L. T., Gillen, E. M., Acosta, J., Fisher, M. P., Garnett, J., Gonzalez, G. C., Helmus, T. C., Jaycox, L. H., Reynolds, K., Salcedo, N., & Scharf, D. M. (2012). Programs addressing psychological health and traumatic brain injury among U.S. military servicemembers and their families. Rand health quarterly, 1(4), 8.