Recovering from Military Trauma

November 13, 2017

According to recent RAND Corporation research, approximately 20 percent of Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan deployments experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and/or Depression (http://www.veteransandptsd.com/PTSD-statistics.html).  However, many experts suggest that the percentage of Veterans who experience stress and mood problems is actually much higher.  Sadly, as a result of multiple stressors, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs has suggested that 20 Veterans complete the act of suicide on a daily basis (http://fortune.com/2017/11/10/veterans-day-whats-killing-americas-veterans/).   In an attempt to shed light on these difficult statistics and offer support for Veterans and their families, New Vitae Wellness Foundation, in conjunction with Lehigh Valley Health Network, Marywood University, Shamrock Reins, and New Vitae Wellness and Recovery, co-sponsored a complimentary training entitled, "Recovering from Military Trauma," on November 13th, 2017.

Guest speaker David Richards, PsyD, LSW, opened the training with a review of military culture, environmental stressors, and current resources for Veterans transitioning back into civilian culture.  Dr. Richards made special note of the challenges encountered by men and women in the military, including multiple moves/assignments, family stressors, and the dangerous and crisis-driven work associated with military operations.  Dr. Richards also reviewed the activities of the Department of Veterans Affairs, including pensions, education, housing, vocational rehabilitation, and women's services.

Both Jacquelline Panellas, PsyD, ICADC, and Kelly Lewis, PsyD, continued the conversation by educating participants about the symptoms associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as well as current supports and treatment.  Dr. Panellas reviewed the "flight or fight" response associated with trauma and the resulting processes in the brain and body that are disrupted as a result.  A review of common reactions to trauma, including fear, anxiety, increased arousal, hypervigilance, grief/depression, and avoidance were included in the conversation.  Dr. Lewis offered explanations and examples of avoidant behaviors, encouraging attendees to be aware of possible environmental reminders that can result in increased anxiety, including smells, temperatures, sounds, and crowds/surroundings.

The training ended with a panel discussion, moderated by Eric Johnson, Lehigh Valley Health Network's Veteran Health Officer.  Panelists included: Barry Bowman, MAPC, CADC, CCPG, Navy Veteran and therapist at New Vitae Wellness and Recovery; Janet L. Brennan, the Founder and Executive Director of Shamrock Reins; Corporal Jared D. Kreiser, USMC Ret.; and Jared's mother, Peggy Kreiser.  Each panelist discussed the challenges associated with military service, emphasizing the importance of giving Veterans the opportunity to heal using individualized means of coping.  The panelists also reviewed the challenges associated with re-assimilating into civilian culture following the traumas that can be encountered in active duty.  Corporal Kreiser reviewed his writing, The Darkness, as a means to communicate his experiences during and after his service.  Attendees also had the opportunity to ask the panelists questions regarding their personal experiences related to healing following trauma.

New Vitae Wellness Foundation was pleased to host approximately fifteen Veterans for the training, with additional family members, behavioral health providers, and others in attendance.  We wish to thank all of our speakers, panelists, and visitors for a thoughtful and powerful training.

"I just wanted to thank you for everything you did for me. It was a great experience that has helped me grow and learn. I am living "on my own" now."

- Kian M. (former resident)