National Institutes of Health and University of Southern California

The Challenge

Mental health services for PTSD are stigmatized and in many case shunned resulting in degrading unit readiness, morale, and individual well-being.  Warfighters who are experiencing distress after trauma exposure are reluctant to admit they are having problems. As such, it is better to deny the problem and suffer in silence than to seek assistance.  This delay in receiving help can result in longer lasting and more severe trauma symptoms. Currently to get help, the Warfighter must be identified by a mental health professional as having a problem which risks the real possibility of being diagnosed with PTSD.  This diagnosis can result in a change of duty status, even removal from the unit.  These consequences, designed to help, can reinforce the self-perception of weakness and being of no value.

What we did

WRC avoids the stigma of mental health services by providing an educational program in the unit, for all unit members, and taught by members of the unit.  WRC teaches Warfighters to change the way they recall trauma events which changes memory processing in the brain.  This change reduces the likelihood of developing PTSD.  Warfighters know how to train.  WRC capitalizes on this fact by teaching techniques in a classroom setting which can mitigate the after effects of trauma exposure.  When psychological resilience is increased, the damaging effect of trauma exposure is lessened.  By learning these self-help skills, the Warfighter is able to increase resiliency by adding to their existing coping skill.

The Benefit

The Warfighter is empowered to deal with past, present, and future traumatic experiences. Since WRC is training and addresses this issue from a wellness perspective, the Warfighter is not stigmatized as ill or weak. Instead the individual understands that trauma exposure can be managed by the use of self-help techniques. WRC adds to the Warfighter’s existing coping skills to increase resiliency and strengthening unit readiness.

Due to its embedded unit structure, short training duration, and large group application, commanders can easily incorporate WRC into the unit’s training plan with minimal intrusion or lost time.  The commander can choose any WRC training tempo needed.  In addition to self-application, other unit members will be able to assist a fellow Warfighter anytime and anywhere.  This assistance will lessen or eliminate the psychologically destructive effects of trauma exposure.