What can you do to help your soldier, marine, airmen, coastie or sailor’s mental and physical health? We read headlines and are bombarded with some tough stories about our veterans daily on all of the media – written, internet, tv, national and local. We often say to ourselves: What happened? Why? Were their families available? Friends? What did the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard do or not do? Are we still waiting for help from the VA, the politicians, additional funding for programs, etc, etc.? The suicide rate is going up, homelessness is going up, the number of veterans with disabilities is going up and we sometimes just want answers! How can or could I help? Yesterday, I had the opportunity to interview US Army Colonel Sophia Tillman-Ortiz who directs the Post-Deployment Health Reassessment Program (PDHRA).
I was looking for a way to help you and your loved ones reach out! The government can offer programs but to be successful they need your involvement! At MilitaryAvenue.com we realize that this is important and we provide some great resources for you on the site to help. Recently, we compiled a list of articles/resources at The Military and Your Mental Health to make it readily available and easy to find in one spot. Col Tillman-Ortiz provided a good discussion about a great resource as well for your soldier and I thought you might need to know more about it so you can help when needed!
First, a quick discussion of the program and what it offers. The PDHRA is one step in a cycle of physical and mental health steps to care for our soldiers (the diagram includes all the steps) from annual, pre deployment, deployment, post deployment and 90-180 days after deployment! During these different steps the soldiers are given surveys, talk to medical professionals and identify any issues they may have that need attention. The surveys are self identifying so that the medical personnel can follow up with questions on any issues that are occurring that may damage the ability of the soldier to be healthy – physically or mentally. Unfortunately, we know that some problems are not easily identifiable and may occur after returning home and require further identification and attention! The medical community has found a critical timeframe for this review and this is where you come in to the picture!
Tillman-Ortiz said that 90-180 days after returning from a deployment is the optimum time for a follow on assessment of a returning soldier’s health! Currently, the PDHRA is completed by 95% of those who are required to take it! The means a lot of folks are not taking it! Why? There could be a lot of reasons but with 600,000 recently completed she felt that the program was effective in assisting our soldiers. But a soldier’s family, friends, co-workers and others should encourage them to take the PDHRA and respond to the mental/physical health interview in a way that opens the door for further discussion and help! During some recent medical issues that my family faced, we found that patient advocacy is a force multiplier when it came to health care!
Are you an involved family member or friend? Take the time to sit and talk about the aches, pains, challenges of re-uniting, reunions, adjusting to the home life, frustrations and fears of your soldier and finally write them down. Make them aware of what you see and how they feel! The PDHRA is not a test! It is not pass/fail and it certainly does not indicate a weakness on anyone’s part! Our service members have been exposed to trauma in the form of combat (some more so than others) and need to be taken care of but they also need to take care of themselves. You can help them do that by encouraging them to participate in the PDHRA (and the entire physical and mental health program) and being aware of the program and what it offers. For more information on the program please go to their website at http://www.armyg1.army.mil/hr/pdhra/ where you can find email contact information as well. This program is service specific to the Army but open to all components – Active, Reserve and Guard.
Not in the Army? I wrote earlier after a DoD Roundtable about these resources: "Two websites, Real Warriors and Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury have resources such as chat functions, call in hot lines and articles to help you! The Defense Center toll free line is 866 966 1020 and they want to help! Do not forget to use the chaplains..." see more...
The PDHRA is not currently under formal review for an update (it was last reviewed in 2008) but feedback is always critical! Do you have any comments or experiences that you would like to share? If so, please comment on this blog, send me an email (dale @ MilitaryAvenue dot com ) or contact them directly on their website. We will forward any information we receive to them as well!
As we approach the 4th of July and celebrate our country’s birthday I want to say thank you again to those who faithfully serve and protect her and to the families who care for our heroes – injured or healthy! Have a great holiday and thank you Colonel Tillman-Ortiz for taking the time to talk to me yesterday.