Resources

I Don’t Want to Tell You What to Do… But

General Health

Definition: Concept of Health and Wellness

Veterans and 1st Responders are masters at getting the job done. Mission accomplishment is not normally an option in the work that they do so early on there is a need to “bend to the task” as a priority. This commitment to work priorities often diminishes the ability to “care for oneself”. It is not that “self” is unimportant. It is just less important than being “fit” and “ready” to do valuable work. Veterans and 1st Responders have a tendency to rate their own functional health as if their job depended on it… leading to incomplete results and more often than not, delayed treatment.

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The “New Normal”

This is a term familiar to Veterans and 1st Responders because they experience health and wellness differently than their civilian counterparts as a result of their service. It is a vital first step to all efforts to support Veterans, 1st Responders and their families. Health is defined as having the capability to be “fit” and “ready” for operational tasks versus the civilian concept that is applied more broadly.

[Anecdote: Two EMT’s have for 5 hours been providing on site care at a multi-victim emergency out the back of the ambulance when a similarly aged male witness to the incident tells one of the EMT’s that he has a splitting headache. Without delay the EMT produces aspirin and a bottle of water and offers advice on dehydration and staying out of the sun. The other EMT, once the man left, says to his partner, “Geez, ya know I have a splitting headache as well,” and gets the following response in mid sentence; “Stop complaining”.

Health and Wellness Facts

  1. Despite the challenges of their past and present work it is a fact that Veterans and 1st Responders do quite well. This in great part because health and wellness is informed by circumstances that are different from those of the general public; e.g. a task outweighs personal health or safety concerns.
  2. Understanding personal health and wellness is a first step toward better health through successful support interventions. Knowing health and wellness allow for specific corrective actions to be taken.
  3. Health and wellness assessments need to include personal and social relationships, overall health, satisfaction of material needs, and one’s very sense of purpose… and assume changes have occurred as a result of their service.
  4. Many Veterans and 1st Responders have infirmities – wounds both visible and not – and while they learn to accommodate these infirmities, excel despite them, or deny their impact on health or wellness…it is a fact that these infirmities lead to reduced health, wellness, and life expectancy.
  5. Health is not just about reacting to health concerns but have its focus on the physical, as well as mental and emotional, needs of the individual in relation to his or her family, organization and environment.
[“Blessed”: Veteran and double-amputee Eugene Roberts ran 3,100 miles across the United States and asserted, “I’ve done everything I wanted to do, I’m blessed.”

Depression

Depression in mature working professionals – both men and women – is an almost expected part of living in austere and often dangerous environments. Some research data suggests that upward of 30% of individuals engaged in combat zone activities develop depressive behavior patterns over time. While most people who are treated for depression respond well, the link to suicide thoughts and actions for those in pre-treatment is significant. Fully 90% of those who act to end their own life had symptoms of depression. Just as depression is curable, so too is suicide… in 100% of cases. This quick read is designed to give you, as a working professional, insight into both depression and suicide which is often misunderstood. Its primary focus is to de-stigmatize getting the medical support necessary to save your or someone you knows life.

Depression and Suicide

How Service Influences Wellness

ASPECT OF SERVICE THAT INFLUENCES WELLNESS HOW IT SHOULD BE REFLECTED IN TERMS OF SERVICE PERSONNEL WELLNESS
Injury or Illness Adjustments are needed for what may be long-term consequences of injuries and pain; the presence of infirmity does not always indicate an absence of wellness.
Military experiences, from the rewarding (unit cohesion, mission accomplishment) to the traumatic (severe injury, loss of a buddy), may change one’s values regarding social and personal relationships Relationships and networks – particularly with other veterans – may be equally important to, or even supersede, the role of family, non-veteran friends and spirituality in a veteran’s life, especially during times when a veteran experiences emotional difficulty related to service. This indicates neither a lack of well-being nor a demotion of family, friends pr faith-based relationships but, rather, elevates the importance and value of social networks among veterans.
Shelter, housing, paychecks, and other aspects of material existence are often facilitated or provided by the military and sometimes do not require significant personal diligence The fulfillment of material needs can be a barrier to wellness for some veterans, especially for those who did not experience adulthood in in civilian society before joining the military. The ability to find resources for housing, employment, financial management, legal services and even daily material goods is a major component of both psychological and physical well-being for many veterans.
Events both traumatic and rewarding fundamentally change a person Adapting to civilian society anew as a changed person is a process. Its duration neither precludes nor portends wellness. Rather, the extent to which one is able to function sufficiently throughout that process, while adapting and becoming increasingly well, is part of a veteran’s “new normal.”

Next Best Step:

  1. Making an appointment with a medical practitioner to establish a personal health and well-being baseline – and accept that referral’s for care might be required.
  2. Be aware of changes in sleep, mood (specifically anger), and relationships whether you are a Veteran or 1st Responder both initially as you enter into a new job or career – and – through the tenure of your career. Remember that where ever you have served or serve today, self-care is a critical part of maintaining optimum performance both at work and in your personal life.
  3. Understand other possible health and well being concerns and resources available from qualified (and experienced) providers – and use them as necessary. Finding a provider with competence in the culture in which you work is a bonus.
  4. Consider that being a Veteran or 1st Responder qualifies you – by right and guarantee – to care from the organization which you serve. Support from the Veterans Administration (VA.gov) is guaranteed for… “Any injury or disability that was directly caused by or made worse as a result of your military service”. For 1st responders your Employee Assistance Programs can have considerable resources. Because stigma and work pressure often complicates access to care programs it is not uncommon for like professionals to go to a primary care provider.

Links to Resources

Want to know more about “Functional Health”?

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Want to know more about “Stress”?

For Veterans For 1st Responders

Sleep

Definition: Disturbed Sleep

This is a condition where disturbed sleep (DS) is a main symptom. Sleep norms vary from 3-4 hours’ to the average of 6-8 hours per night. Older people tend to sleep less. Effective sleep provides refreshment and full functioning. The medical definition of DS (e.g. insomnia) is ‘difficulty in getting to and/or staying asleep, early wakening, or non-restorative sleep resulting in impaired daytime functioning’. Symptoms include poor concentration, mood disturbance, and daytime tiredness. One cause of DS is depression with low mood and persistent negative thoughts. Treatment of depression (or anxiety) often cures DS as well. However, Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a serious medical condition common to snorers with higher size/weight ratios. OSA causes the large airways to narrow or collapse during sleep, causing snoring, but also reducing oxygen levels in the lungs. Frequent gasping and full awakenings each night are a common symptom. Illness causing pain, leg cramps, breathlessness, indigestion, cough, itch, and hot flushes also contribute to DS. Treatment requires accurate medical diagnosis and can include sleep aid medication to re-start a sleep cycle or use of a breathing machine.

Referral

For Veterans For 1st Responders

Care Options

Sleep Apnea Diagnosis Find Local Help

Next Best Step

Change Sleeping Habits Best Sleep Tracking Apps

Links to Resources

For Veterans:

Trouble Sleeping VA: Sleep Disorders

For Everyone:

Overnight Sleep Study Best Websites for Better Sleep

Trauma/PTSD

Definition: Trauma/PTSD

Not all traumatic events develop into a medical condition called Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Studies show that the severity and the length of exposure contribute to how the body processes a traumatic event(s). PTSD can develop after you have been involved in, or witnessed, a serious trauma or life-threatening assault. During the trauma you feel intense fear, helplessness, revulsion, or horror. In some people PTSD develops soon after the trauma. However, in many cases the symptoms first develop several months, or even years, after the trauma. Some of the symptoms include recurring distressing memories, flashbacks, and disturbed sleep. Up to 4 in 5 people may also experience mental health impacts that can include depression, anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, and overt self-medication. Treatment options include some mood enhancing and sleep inducing medications and non-medicinal behavioral support.

Referral

IVR PTSD Referral IRR PTSD Referral

Care Options

See a Primary Care Provider: This is the first step in beginning to understand both the symptoms and how to mitigate them.

VA, 1st Responder Agency Resources: Most of this support is ‘cognitive’ which means it is designed to help an individual or a family understand what trauma does to people. Its primary focus is to identify how it impacts people and find ways to combat it.

Look for Long Term Support: Most new research makes it clear that sustained interaction with emergency and trauma events will have a dilatory impact over the tenure of a person’s life. If this is your career then finding a foundational support resource that allows for processing trauma on a regular basis will go a long way to insuring sound and balanced living.

Next Best Step

Self Assessment: Veterans and 1st Responders often screen positively for symptoms of PTSD. This type of activity, according to current research, places them in an ‘at risk’ category for PTSD associated symptoms. Look at the following trauma symptoms list and decide of any of these are impacting you or someone you know. An initial assessment will provide a “baseline” that can be used to gauge, over time, if an individual is improvement or worsening.

Look at the symptom list and see if any apply to you:
  • Recurring and distressing thoughts, memories, images, dreams, or flashbacks of events.
  • Avoidance of thoughts, conversations, places, people, or activities that may trigger distressing memories and anxiety.
  • Feeling emotionally numb, detached, and finding it difficult to have loving relationships.
  • Pessimistic about the future with some lose of interest in previously enjoyed activities.
  • Difficulty in getting off to sleep or staying asleep.
  • Being irritable which may include outbursts of anger.
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Increased vigilance.
  • Being more easily startled than before.

One, two, or many of the above symptoms can create difficulty in your personal and professional life.

Links to Resources

Depression and Suicide

National Center for PTSD

Visit Site

Understanding the PTSD Booklet

Visit Site (PDF)

Understanding PTSD Treatment

Visit Site (PDF)

PTSD Coach

Visit Site (Mobile App)

1st Responder Resource

Visit Site (PDF)

1st Responder Treatment

Visit Site

Veteran Support

Definition: Veteran Support

In “The Paradox of Underachievement” (Colson, 2001), the statement was made that one cannot serve in the US military without at least some diminishment of health or loss – temporary or otherwise – of opportunity. And then came 911. For more than a decade over 2 million Active Duty, National Guard, and Reserve forces have shouldered deployment(s), direct combat and support operations, and increased operational tempo during this countries longest sustained military operation. If in 2001 the data clearly showed veterans from all modern conflicts suffer together in greater or lesser degrees, how much more since then?

The greatest health challenge for veterans is the ability to understand the common but no less dramatic impacts of their service. It is akin to all the hopes while deployed of returning home to loved ones, quiet sleep, home cooked meals, and normal routines. Then finding that in reality life – your life – has changed. And what we know is that there are common health and well being conditions that can immediately or wait several decades. We know that our blood and brain chemistry is altered. That sleep, once the basis for a balanced temperament, is interrupted and fitful. And our private and personal life – with loved ones, friends, and community – has taken on a harder edge. And then there is depression complicated by the half dozen or so ways in which veterans from all service eras ‘self medicate’ to assuage the tensions and symptoms they experience.

Care Options

Veterans Administration: Regardless of what the news wants you to believe the VA is the center of the universe for veteran care. And, it has a very consistent mandate to take care of combat veterans as a top priority. To access care go to VA.gov and enroll. The process looks like this:

  1. Register as a Veteran: Go to va.gov or take your DD214 to a VA Regional Office or care facility.
  2. Become a VA Authorized Patient: Once you register you will be given a VA ID card.
  3. Make an Appointment: Get a full and comprehensive medical exam.
  4. File a VA Claim for Disability: Based on any findings from that exam, visit: http://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/ to explore what benefits you are entitled to.
  5. Enroll in eBenefits and eHealth.
  6. Go to a Vet Center: They exist to care for combat veterans and victims of military sexual trauma.

Primary Care Provider: See your doctor about your symptoms and how to mitigate them.

Consider ‘Counseling’ Support: Most of this support is ‘cognitive’ which means it is designed to help an individual or a family understand what trauma does to people. Its primary focus is to identify how it impacts people and find ways to combat it.

Look for Long Term Support: The American Legion, VFW, and now the Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) are placed where like-minded veterans can go to find friendship and support. They can also find help filing for VA benefit, education, and pension claims. The key is to find a place that has “been there and done that” – maybe the one place where a veteran can meet other veterans on common ground.

Next Best Step:

Register at Veterans Administration:

Register

Read This VA Benefit Book:

VA Benefit Book (PDF)

Complete this Form Online:

Complete Form (PDF)

Go to a Vet Center:

Vet Center

Links to Resources:

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs:

Visit Site

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs eBenefits (Apply for Disability Compensation):

Visit Site

Veterans National Resource Directory:

Visit Site

Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255

VA Health Care and Benefits for Women: 1-855-VA-WOMEN (1-855-829-6636)

Hotline Press Release

Combat Veterans

Definition: Combat Veterans

In “The Paradox of Underachievement” (Colson, 2001), the statement was made that one cannot serve in the US military without at least some diminishment of health or loss – temporary or otherwise – of opportunity. And then came 911. For more than a decade over 2 million Active Duty, National Guard, and Reserve forces have shouldered deployment(s), direct combat and support operations, and increased operational tempo during this countries longest sustained military operation. If in 2001 the data clearly showed veterans from all modern conflicts suffer together in greater or lesser degrees, how much more since then?

The greatest health challenge for combat veterans is the ability to understand the common but no less dramatic impacts of their service. It is akin to all the hopes while deployed of returning home to loved ones, quiet sleep, home cooked meals, and normal routines. Then finding that in reality life – your life – has changed. And what we know is that there are common health and well being conditions that can immediately or wait several decades. We know that our blood and brain chemistry is altered. That sleep, once the basis for a balanced temperament, is interrupted and fitful. And our private and personal life – with loved ones, friends, community – has taken on a harder edge. And then there is depression complicated by the half dozen or so ways in which veterans from all wars ‘self medicate’ to assuage the tensions and symptoms they experience.

Care Options

Veterans Administration: Regardless of what the news wants you to believe the VA is the center of the universe for veteran care. And, it has a very consistent mandate to take care of combat veterans as a top priority. To access care go to VA.gov and enroll. The process looks like this:

  1. Register as a Veteran: Go to va.gov or take your DD214 to a VA Regional Office or care facility.
  2. Become a VA Authorized Patient: Once you register you will be given a VA ID card.
  3. Make an Appointment: Get a full and comprehensive medical exam.
  4. File a VA Claim for Disability: Based on any findings from that exam, visit: http://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/ to explore what benefits you are entitled to.
  5. Enroll in eBenefits and eHealth.
  6. Go to a Vet Center: They exist to care for combat veterans and victims of military sexual trauma.

Primary Care Provider: See your doctor about your symptoms and how to mitigate them.

Consider ‘Counseling’ Support: Most of this support is ‘cognitive’ which means it is designed to help an individual or a family understand what trauma does to people. Its primary focus is to identify how it impacts people and find ways to combat it.

Look for Long Term Support: The American Legion, VFW, and now the Iraq Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) are placed where like-minded veterans can go to find friendship and support. They can also find help filing for VA benefit, education, and pension claims. The key is to find a place that has “been there and done that” – maybe the one place where a veteran can meet other veterans on common ground.

Next Best Step:

Register at Veterans Administration:

Register

Read This VA Benefit Book:

VA Benefit Book (PDF)

Complete this Form Online:

Complete Form (PDF)

Go to a Vet Center:

Vet Center

Links to Resources:

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs:

Visit Site

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs eBenefits (Apply for Disability Compensation):

Visit Site

Veterans National Resource Directory:

Visit Site

Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255

VA Health Care and Benefits for Women: 1-855-VA-WOMEN (1-855-829-6636)

Hotline Press Release

Testimonials

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    Gulf War Veteran
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    Vietnam War Veteran