Military Health System Prepares More Online Mental Health Tools
By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 25, 2008 The Military Health System is planning a late-September update to its behavioral health Web site, AfterDeployment.org.
The site was launched Aug. 5.
“AfterDeployment.org provides servicemembers, their families, and veterans with online behavioral health tools,” Dr. Robert Ciulla, afterdeployment.org project manager at Madigan Army Medical Center, Fort Lewis, Wash., said on the “Dot Mil Docs” program on BlogTalkRadio.com Aug. 21.
“The Web site is a self-care solution targeting post-deployment adjustment concerns,” he said. “Individuals who might not otherwise seek out services can now be empowered to use AfterDeployment’s resources at their own pace.”
During the initial phases of the site’s development, officials worked to understand the site’s eventual user population, Ciulla said, recognizing that since October 2001, more than 1.5 million United States troops have deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Among that group, Ciulla noted that the most troops are between the ages of 17-29, and have a high school-level education.
“We also recognized that our user population is knowledgeable about computers,” Ciulla said. “The intent, then, was to build a site that offered more than just a lot of text-based articles; we wanted the materials to be interactive. We wanted to give users a variety of ways to access the information.”
The site has many features. “If a user wanted to get a better understanding about their stress level or their anger problem, they can take a quick self-assessment right on the site and get some immediate feedback concerning their scores,” Ciulla said.
Users also can test their knowledge with user-friendly quizzes and participate in narrator-guided multimedia workshops tailored to address specific concerns.
AfterDeployment.org also includes video-based testimonials from servicemembers, veterans and families discussing their deployment challenges and how they coped.
Online tools have several advantages, including 24/7 access anywhere an Internet connection is available. Users can log on to AfterDeployment.org in the privacy of their own homes, which should help to reduce or eliminate barriers to care and the stigma associated with seeking out in-person consultation, the doctor said. For some, AfterDeployment.org may serve as an alternative to traditional face-to-face care, while others may use the site in tandem with an actual provider, he added.
Ciulla said the self-care tools available on AfterDeployment.org provide the entire military community with vital service-delivery options. The site has particular advantages for National Guard and Reserve units, who may be distant from a military treatment facility or otherwise located in areas lacking providers who are knowledgeable about military-related adjustment concerns, he noted.
Additionally, military leadership and health care providers can tap the site’s materials to learn about common problems and change strategies, and to obtain useful contact information concerning local resources, he said.
AfterDeployment.org offers 12 programs: Adjusting to War Memories, Dealing with Depression, Handling Stress, Improving Relationships, Succeeding at Work, Overcoming Anger, Sleeping Better, Controlling Alcohol and Drugs, Helping Kids Deal with Deployment, Seeking Spiritual Fitness, Living with Physical Injuries, and Balancing Your Life.
(Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg works in the New Media directorate of the Defense Media Activity.)