Join us as Dr. Lisa Conboy of Harvard Medical School presents preliminary findings from her work focused on measuring the efficacy of acupuncture as treatment for Gulf War Illness (GWI). GWI is a complex, poorly understood illness characterized by many symptoms – including fatigue, sleep and mood problems, difficulty concentrating, difficulty thinking and finding words, and musculoskeletal pain. More than 100,000 of the 700,000 veterans deployed to the Persian Gulf in the first Gulf War have presented with medical complaints. Affected veterans have received treatment directed at their symptoms, but at 5- and 10-year follow-ups, many report their symptoms remain, some of them severe and disabling. The cause of GWI is unknown, and the symptoms cannot be explained by physical or laboratory examinations.
Dr. Lisa Conboy is a social epidemiologist and a sociologist with an interest in the associations between social factors and health. She is published in the areas of Women’s Health, Mind-Body Medicine, and qualitative research methodology. An Instructor at the Osher Center for Clinical Therapies and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, she is also the research director and part-time faculty at the New England School of Acupuncture where she teaches research methodology. She is also a founding member of the Kripalu research collaborative which examines the mental, physical, and spiritual benefits of yoga, meditation, Ayurveda and other holistic and mind-body therapies.
On President’s Day, February 20, Marine Corps Sergeant Major Bryan Battaglia visited the CIR office in downtown Los Angeles to learn about the center’s partnerships, research, and innovative projects, including the development of the Virtual Patient. Sgt. Maj. Battaglia is the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and is the senior non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Armed Forces. He serves as the principal military advisor to the JCS Chairman, General Martin Dempsey, and the Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, on all matters involving joint and combined total force integration, utilization, health of the force and joint development for enlisted personnel.
Sgt. Maj. Battaglia was briefed by CIR staff and then met with a group of veterans and MSW students from the USC School of Social Work to discuss the issues that they believe are most important in helping veterans and their families reintegrate into the community. The group discussed the particular effects that post-traumatic stress has on veterans, such as suicide and a higher rate of homelessness, as well as the importance of ‘leaving no one behind,’ even after a servicemember separates from the military and re-enters the civilian world.
In December 2011, Prudential Financial made a generous gift to CIR in order to help support the center’s current projects and continue its work to support veterans and their families. Earlier this month, CIR hosted a dinner to recognize and celebrate Prudential’s contribution of $900,000 to the center.
Members of USC’s administration, faculty of the school, CIR’s partners in the military community, and the school’s Board of Councilors gathered at the USC School of Social Work to recognize and thank Prudential Financial for its generous support. With Prudential’s support, CIR will be able to continue its work to educate military social workers and to identify and facilitate best practices in the field of mental health that support the reintegration of veterans and their families into the community. Thank you, Prudential!
For photos of this event, check out CIR’s Facebook page.
Veterans Treatment Court Panel Discussion
Date: Thursday, February 23, 2012
Time: 12:30 – 3:00 PM
Location: USC San Diego Academic Center (SDAC), 16870 West Bernardo Drive, San Diego, CA 92127
This discussion will focus on creating awareness regarding the needs of returning veterans and servicemembers who become involved with the criminal justice system upon returning home from combat service. The panel will cover best practices of existing Veterans Courts programs across Southern California, as well as historical and current proposed state legislation. Confirmed panel speakers for the event include Judge Wendy Lindley (USC Alumnus and Presiding Judge of the Orange County Veterans Treatment Court), and Ms. Lindsay Gold (San Diego VA Veterans Justice Outreach Coordinator). Lunch will be served at 12:30pm followed by the panel discussion at 1:00 pm.
CIR has teamed up with The New York Times Knowledge Network to provide online continuing education (CE) courses to behavioral healthcare providers and other professionals who work with military-impacted populations.
MILITARY CULTURE – A broad introduction for civilian professionals
Instructor: Anthony M. Hassan, Ed.D
6 CE credit hours are available for LCSWs and LMFTs through the California Board of Behavioral Sciences.
This self-paced essential first course is designed to promote understanding of military culture and related life circumstances among civilian professionals who do not have substantial knowledge of military life or extensive experience engaging military-affiliated clients, veterans, or their family members. Complex issues regarding the military as a culture will be examined, including warrior identity and ethos, structure and roles of the service branches, motivations for military service, patterns of socialization, diversity issues and their policy implications, and the ethical considerations and reporting obligations specific to working with servicemembers.
For more information about this course or the discounts available for groups and veterans, please contact Shawna Campbell at email@example.com.
On January 26, Colonel Gary Packard was hosted by CIR to speak about the process and considerations involved in the Department of Defense’s repeal of its “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy. Col. Packard is currently the Head of the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership at the Air Force Academy, and led the team that drafted DoD’s plan to implement the repeal of DADT. He spoke about the lead-up to the repeal and the process of evaluation that took place before the policy was changed.
In February 2010, during his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen stated that he was troubled that servicemembers were “[forced to] lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens.” Adm. Mullen called for the repeal of DADT and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates supported the repeal on behest of President Barack Obama, who had called for an end to the policy the week before in his State of the Union speech.
Before enacting a repeal of DADT, however, DoD conducted an extensive survey of its personnel to determine what the effect of the repeal would be. In May 2010, a working group was formed to research the impact of the repeal on servicemembers and military readiness, how other militaries or institutions enacted ‘serve openly’ policies, and the process through which the policy might be practically changed. Based on the recommendations of this working group, nearly 2 million active-duty and reserve servicemembers were trained in preparation for the repeal of DADT, which officially ended in September 2011.
To view video of this event and Col. Packard’s presentation materials, click here.
Last month, CIR faculty and staff attended the annual Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) conference in Washington, DC. On Saturday, January 14, CIR sponsored a Special Interest Group luncheon which featured guest speaker Mrs. Deborah Mullen, military family advocate and wife of Admiral Mike Mullen.
Mrs. Mullen began her speech by reminding the audience that many thousands of military family members serve along with their servicemembers and worry every day about the safety and well-being of their loved ones. Furthermore, although military families take care of each other with great strength and dignity, the last ten years of deployment have stretched many of them to the limit. Mrs. Mullen addressed several issues that affect servicemembers, veterans, and their families, including:
Deployment cycle – Shorter times at home between deployments, exacerbated by training sessions that cut into the time a servicemember can spend with his/her family or re-adjust to civilian life, lead to greater stress for the entire family, to include anxiety, depression, and “secondary post-traumatic stress“.
Stigma – Military families often share the same stigma regarding mental health treatment as their servicemembers because they believe that getting help will have a negative impact on their servicemember’s career. Although more and more military families have started talking openly about getting mental health help, many others suffer in silence or self-medicate with drugs and alcohol.
Stress on military children – The impact of a lifetime of deployment and war on today’s military children is unknown, and may never be fully understood. There has been a rise in the number of psychiatric drug prescriptions for military children, which indicates heightened levels of stress from parental deployment and reintegration.
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) – The long-term effects of TBIs resulting from prolonged exposure to blasts from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are being studied, but are not well understood. Evidence from football and boxing brain injuries indicate that the effects of TBI, no matter the cause, are long-term and severe. The use of MRIs in the combat theater would help expand the knowledge and data available on concussive events from IED blasts, and may lead to new ways to treat or prevent these combat injuries.
Healing with family – For the first time in history, military families are relocating to live at the hospitals where their Wounded Warriors are recovering, and are helping care for them during their recovery. The presence of families is critical to the healing process for these servicemembers, as it lends added support and allows the family to heal together.
Military Sexual Trauma (MST) – Women make up 15% of the active duty military, and at least one in five are victims of MST—cases of which are vastly underreported—often at the hands of fellow servicemembers. This betrayal of trust, in addition to the stress of deployment and exposure to combat, can cause mental trauma which impedes the female servicemember’s mental health, career, and reintegration into family and civilian life. When these problems result in homelessness, women veterans with children have greater difficulty in finding shelters that can house families with young children.
Suicide – Suicide rates for servicemembers and veterans are rising, due to many different reasons that require further study, including previous trauma. Also, current suicide studies do not include spouses or family members of servicemembers and veterans and this data must be collected in order to examine the reverberating effects of deployment and reintegration on military families.
Loss and remembrance – Many military families suffer the ultimate loss—the death of their servicemember. These families need support from their communities during their time of mourning as well as help in remembering and honoring their loved one’s service and sacrifice.
Mrs. Mullen asserted that all of these issues affect not only servicemembers and veterans, but their families as well, and therefore studies of these topics must expand to include military family members, such as spouses and children. She offered the following list of topics as possible research areas:
- What is resiliency? How do we build resilience in military families and when do we begin? When and under what circumstances does resiliency begin to break down?
- What are the long-term effects of multiple deployments on the family? A longitudinal study on the impact of these deployments on children is needed.
- For children who have experienced long separations from a deployed parent – How will this affect their future relationship with that parent and their relationships with other people in their lives?
- What are the near-term and long-term effects of multiple deployments, PTS, TBI, or traumatic physical injury on reintegration into both civilian and family life?
- Why is this generation of veterans becoming homeless at a faster rate than those who became homeless after Vietnam?
- What are the effects of suicide on surviving family members?
- What will be the long-term effect on the children of homeless women veterans? How will a mother’s suffering from Military Sexual Trauma (MST) affect her children?
- How must the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs change and grow in order to adapt to the new needs of this generation of veterans?
- How must our communities prepare and adapt in order to fill the resources and services gaps for returning servicemembers, veterans, their families, and surviving families of the fallen?