Science and Technology News

Monday, November 28, 2011

Frontline Psych with Doc Bender: Use Technology to Your Benefit

By Dr. James Bender, DCoE psychologist

Dr. James Bender is a former Army psychologist who deployed to Iraq as the brigade psychologist for the 1st Cavalry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Hood, Texas. During his deployment, he traveled through Southern Iraq, from Basra to Baghdad. He writes a monthly post for the DCoE Blog on psychological health concerns related to deployment and being in the military.

Technology has dramatically changed our world during the past 20 years, including how we approach psychological health care, and mostly for the better. Twenty years ago, if you wanted to find out about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you could either make an appointment with a psychologist or spend countless hours at a library reading books and professional journals. Now, great information is just a click away.

If you have a smartphone for example, you can instantly download free mobile applications such as the PTSD Coach, and learn about PTSD and ways to help you manage its symptoms. There are apps to track your mood during a period of time and give you and your provider information to help diagnose a possible mood or anxiety disorder. Treatment guidelines to help providers manage patients with mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) are even available on a smartphone. There are lots of good online assessment tools, and although they don’t give a clinical diagnosis of a disorder, they can get you thinking about your well-being and help start a conversation with a mental health care provider if needed.

When I was seeing patients, it impressed me when someone came to my office with a printout from a website describing a particular problem or topic. It showed me that they cared enough to seek out information and were proactive in their care.

But here are a few points to keep in mind when you’re educating yourself on psychological health concerns:

 ■Make sure to get your info from credible sources: DCoE, American Psychological Association, and Department of Veterans Affairs are great sources for info on TBI, PTSD, depression and other military-related mental health concerns
■While many sources are good, a few are poor. Be wary of sites that try to sell you something, make outlandish claims or offer quick results. Treatment for mental health conditions works, but it takes time and effort
■While these resources can educate you and give you things to talk about with your provider, they should not serve as a substitute for professional help

Another example of how technology is improving the way people can access information is being able to connect with someone instantly and at any time. The DCoE Outreach Center is available through online chat and whether you’re a service member, veteran, family member or provider, you can speak to a health resource consultant who can provide guidance and resources 24/7.

I often participate in webinars. I can sit at home and virtually attend a TBI symposium across the country given by great researchers. This makes me a better psychologist and allows me to do my job better. If you find a topic that interests you, why not take advantage of all this technology to learn more about it?

After all, it is clear that technology is here to stay, and I encourage you to embrace it as a tool that can help you improve your psychological health. Thanks for reading and for your service.

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