Professional News
Military Helps Civilian Psychiatrists Respond to Soldiers, Families
Psychiatric News
Volume 40 Number 2 page 12-58

A new electronic series of fact sheets on deployment-related concerns of soldiers and their families is being distributed to civilian psychiatrists and military physicians as well as other health care professionals.

The Courage to Care health-promotion campaign is produced by an interdisciplinary team at the Uniformed Services University (USU) Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress (CSTS), which is directed by Col. Robert Ursano, MC, USAF (Ret.).FIG1

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Courage to Care health-promotion campaign fact sheet on reintegration. 

Ursano, who chairs the department of psychiatry at USU, told Psychiatric News, "As the nation's federal medical school, we have a special relationship with our Department of Defense (DoD) community that is unique and worldwide. The health of our soldiers, airmen, and marines—men and women—and their families is our concern."

Ursano and his team of experts at CSTS identify topics for the fact sheets after consulting with military and hospital commanders, primary care physicians, and public affairs officers, according to Ursano, who was the first chair of APA's Committee on Psychiatric Dimensions of Disasters and is now a corresponding member.

"One of the unique aspects of the health-promotion campaign is its relevance. Topics are chosen for no other reason than to answer the questions being asked by service members and their families," Ursano said.

Each fact sheet presents an outline of particular issues that health care and social service professionals need to understand when dealing with families with a deployed spouse/parent. A companion fact sheet on the same topic is attached for professionals to give to soldiers or family members to take home.

For example, the first fact sheet addressed issues that arise when deployed soldiers reunite with their spouse and other family members after being apart for months. "This particular topic was prompted by a request for information from a spouse of a soldier deployed to Iraq. She wanted to prepare her family for her husband's return for the holidays in 2003," commented Ursano.

"When I responded to her concerns, I realized that the military community as a whole needed more information on what to expect when soldiers returned home from Iraq, particularly around the holidays," he said.

He proposed that the center, with its expertise in disaster mental health and trauma research in terrorism and bioterrorism, produce a series of electronic fact sheets to educate the military community.

In June 2003, Ursano created the Office of Public Education and Preparedness at CSTS and hired health-promotion and public-education specialist Nancy Vineburgh to be its director and an assistant professor of psychiatry.

Ursano enlisted Vineburgh to develop the theme for the new health-promotion campaign and individual fact sheets, edit the content, and design the format and look.

She gave the campaign its name, Courage to Care, which complemented the USU slogan "caring for those in harm's way," said Ursano.

He also enlisted the expertise of Col. Molly Hall, MC, USAF, associate professor and assistant chair of psychiatry at USU, to oversee the development of the educational content of the campaign (Psychiatric News, June 18, 2004).

Capt. Derrick Hamaoka, MC, USAF, also a psychiatrist, joined the campaign's interdisciplinary team about a year ago during his third-year clerkship in the psychiatry department. His primary roles are to coordinate the campaign and oversee the distribution of the fact sheets to military and civilian health care and social-service professionals, Hamaoka told Psychiatric News.

"The concept of producing attractive, ready-to-use fact sheets that could be disseminated electronically to health care professionals and customized if they wished appealed to me," Hamaoka said.

He observed that the military community's response to the reintegration fact sheet was overwhelming and positive. He has since expanded the distribution list in response to numerous requests.

For example, one military commander wrote a note to the team saying," I can't thank you enough. Your Courage to Care series is the just the product we were looking for to provide to the Air Force/National Guard. It has direct, immediate impact on our troops and the current urgent combat mental health care crisis."

The second fact sheet, which was released last month, addressed a national concern—the flu. "It guides health care professionals in educating patients and their communities about good health habits to decrease the risk of infections," said Ursano.

The third fact sheet will address issues that National Guard and Reserve members may face when they re-enter the workplace, according to Vineburgh." These families are not necessarily located near an active military base so they require special outreach by the DoD, their home communities, and employers."

Additional fact sheets will address the impact of deployment on children and families, women's health during deployment, and talking about injuries with spouses and families, according to Ursano.

The Courage to Care fact sheets are posted online at<www.usuhs.mil/psy/courage.html>.

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Courage to Care health-promotion campaign fact sheet on reintegration. 

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