Why Congress Should Support The Center for Deployment Psychology (CDP)
The high rate of mental health service use after deployment among Iraqi Freedom veterans highlights challenges in ensuring adequate resources to meet these needs (Charles Hoge, MD, JAMA, March, 2006). Lt. Colonel John Bradley of Walter Reed stated that there are two fold more mental health providers in theater than back home (NMFA Panel Discussion, 1/30/07) to address the thousands of returning military personnel who are experiencing depression, hyper-vigilance, insomnia, emotional numbing, recurring nightmares, and intrusive thoughts. In many cases, the symptoms worsen with time, leaving individuals at higher risk for alcohol and drug abuse, unemployment, homelessness and suicide (Newsweek, 2004).
The CDP is a new tri-service (Army, Navy, & Marine) training consortium designed to prepare military and civilian psychologists to meet the mental health needs of today’s veterans including National Guard and Reservists and their families.
Multiple deployments of military personnel, especially National Guard and Reservists, are becoming increasingly commonplace (NFMA, 2006). Soldiers who had at least one prior deployment to Iraq reported significantly higher levels of acute stress, anxiety and depression than those on their first deployment and are at greater risk for readjustment problems when they return home (Mental Health Advisory Team, 2006).
Aimed at reaching more returning service members, the CDP is the coordinating center for a network of military APA-accredited internship training sites at ten regional Department of Defense health facilities nationwide. Psychologists are being trained on the psychological impact of multiple deployments on military personnel and their families.
Many soldiers who are severely medically injured in combat (e.g., loss of limb/limbs, loss of vision, traumatic brain, disfigurement) will experience mental health difficulties coping with their traumatic experience, as well as adjusting to their injury (National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, 2004).
The CDP provides intensive training in the provision of mental health care to those with "polytrauma", severely medically injured personnel who have PTSD. Psychologists can help both the service member and his/her family deal with such issues as depression, adjusting to a lack of independence, and relearning cognitive functions. (National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, 2004).
Returning National Guard, Reservists and convalescing service members often return to hometowns located in areas where easy access to military treatment facilities may not exist (NMFA DoD Testimony, 12/20/06). The mental health needs of these service members may then go unmet unless civilian providers are willing and able to treat them.
CDP training is aimed at civilian psychologists in underserved areas who will be better prepared to meet the needs of returning military personnel and more likely to provide services. The CDP is also developing a website that will provide nationwide information on available psychologists and what mental health needs can be addressed. Such community training and outreach are key elements in the success of the CDP’s ability to reach those in rural communities.
Family members also feel the effects of war as returning soldiers struggle with mental health issues. There are increasing numbers of families that have experienced the death of a family member due to combat. These struggles can place family members, including children, at risk for some of the same mental health issues as soldiers, such as depression or substance abuse.
CDP trains psychologists for treating both returning military personnel and their families. Psychologists can reduce long term family problems by helping veterans and their families deal with the trauma and its psychological effects through improving communication, anger management, conflict resolution, and parenting skill development. They can also provide specialty care addressing emotional and behavioral issues of the children. Furthermore, psychologists can provide bereavement counseling. (National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, 2004).