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VA Research Spotlight

Highlights of VA research on mental health

May 18, 2018

In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, our focus is on research that examines mental health disorders in Veterans.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Fact Sheet In earlier wars, it was called soldier's heart, shell shock, or combat fatigue. Today, doctors recognize these terms as a distinct medical condition called posttraumatic stress disorder. The disorder can lead to distressing and persistent symptoms, including re-experiencing trauma through flashbacks or nightmares, emotional numbness, insomnia, relationship problems, sudden anger, and drug and alcohol abuse.

Suicide Prevention

Suicide Prevention Fact Sheet Veterans can be at risk for suicide for a variety of reasons. Some are coping with aging, stress, or lingering effects stemming from their military service that have never been addressed. Many have underlying mental health conditions or substance use disorders, in some cases aggravated by their military service. Many recently discharged Veterans have difficulty with personal relationships or their transition back to civilian life.

VA Research Infographics

Puncing WallsPunching Walls

In a group of 1,143 Veterans seeking PTSD treatment, 43% reported punching walls or objects within the past two weeks. The behavior was twice as common in male Veterans, compared with female Veterans.

VA Research Currents

Understanding the impact of PTSD on parentingUnderstanding the impact of PTSD on parenting
A team at VA's Center of Excellence for Research on Returning War Veterans examined post-9-11 research on the effects of military PTSD on parenting, child outcomes, and parent-child functioning. (04/04/2018)

They've got each other's backsThey've got each other's backs
While group therapy sessions for those with issues like PTSD or anger are commonplace at VA hospitals, clinics, and Vet Centers, a research team at the Bronx VA is doing relatively pioneering work by running a group for suicidal Veterans. (03/28/2018)

Researchers probe integration of mental health services in primary careResearchers probe integration of mental health services in primary care
VA researchers have been studying the integration of mental health services within primary care. They’ve found that the model, now in place at hundreds of VA clinics nationwide, is improving Veteran access to mental health care as intended. (03/28/2018)

VA launches telehealth program for rural Vets with PTSDVA launches telehealth program for rural Vets with PTSD
VA has launched a pilot telehealth program that will give rural Veterans with PTSD remote access to psychotherapy and related services. The effort builds on years of prior research showing how PTSD therapy can be delivered effectively via video. (02/15/2018)

Brain stimulation technique shows promise in reducing fear in Veterans with PTSDBrain stimulation technique shows promise in reducing fear in Veterans with PTSD
VA researchers say a non-invasive technique called transcranial direct current stimulation may help lessen PTSD symptoms. Further testing is planned. (11/09/2017)

own on the farmDown on the farm
The organization Growing Veterans, which gets participants involved in agriculture, provides a peaceful and therapeutic experience that can help Veterans reintegrate after deployments. (11/09/2017)

VA Research Quarterly Update

Veteran reengagement in PTSD psychotherapy Veteran reengagement in PTSD psychotherapy
Dr. Katherine Buchholz and a team of VA researchers conducted a study that looked for ways to encourage Veterans with PTSD to return to psychotherapy. They found that any interaction with the VA health care system increased the odds that a Veteran would return to complete psychotherapy for PTSD. (Fall 2017)

VA Research News Briefs

Study: Written exposure therapy as effective as cognitive processing therapy

Study: Written exposure therapy as effective as cognitive processing therapy - Photo for illustrative purposes only. ©iStock/LyashikPhoto for illustrative purposes only. ©iStock/Lyashik

Written exposure therapy had similar effects to cognitive processing therapy for treating PTSD, found a VA Boston Health Care System study. Cognitive processing therapy is considered the gold standard for PTSD treatment. Written exposure therapy involves five weekly sessions, compared with 12 sessions in cognitive processing therapy. The researchers assigned 63 patients to written exposure therapy and 63 to cognitive processing therapy. Participants in written exposure therapy had similar improvements in PTSD symptoms as cognitive processing therapy participants after 36 weeks. The findings suggest that written exposure therapy could offer an efficient PTSD treatment for patients unlikely to complete longer-term therapy, say the researchers. (JAMA Psychiatry, March 1, 2018)

View more VA Research News Briefs

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