The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense have launched PTSD Coach, an iPhone app that allows members of the military as well as their friends, family and caregivers to help manage stress following combat deployment.
With the military active in areas such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, service members and veterans may need help managing the stress that comes with their service.
Along with the VA's National Center for PTSD, the app was developed by T2 (the National Center for Telehealth & Technology), a Defense department agency based in Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
The National Center for PTSD offers education, research and training on trauma and PTSD for veterans and others affected by military service.
PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) is an anxiety disorder that occurs following a traumatic event, often a life-threatening episode. Symptoms include flashbacks, avoidance behaviors, feeling numb and hyperarousal signs such as anger, jitters and irritability.
Announced on April 19, PTSD Coach allows users to learn about PTSD, take a self-assessment test, manage their symptoms and find support. A Distress Meter allows users to rate their distress on a scale of 0 to 10. They'll then know which features of the app will work for them based on their rating.
"This is about giving veterans and service members the help they earned when and where they need it," Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said in a statement. "We hope they, their families and friends download this free app. Understanding PTSD and those who live with it is too important to ignore."
The VA and Pentagon plan to launch an Android version in late spring, and a similar app called PTSD Family Coach will follow as well.
PTSD Coach is designed to supplement mental health treatment that service members and their relatives may be receiving.
"This is a great service we are providing to veterans, service members, their families and friends, but it should not be seen as a replacement for traditional therapy," VA Under Secretary for Health Dr. Robert Petzel said in a statement. "Veterans should utilize all of the benefits they have earned with their service, and one of the best things about this app is it will get veterans connected to the places that are out there to provide help."
The VA notes that HIPAA privacy rules on sharing data in PTSD Coach only apply when sharing information with health providers and not when sharing information otherwise.
The VA and the Pentagon plan to jointly release additional applications to enable veterans, service members and their family and friends to manage their health and readjust to life when deployment ends.
T2 has developed a series of health applications for veterans, including Mood Tracker, which enables veterans and current service members to track their emotions and behaviors after military service. Mood Tracker is available for both iPhone and Android.
Other T2 mobile health applications include Breathe2Relax and Tactical Breathing Trainer. Both are available on the iPhone.
Breathe2Relax prompts users to conduct a diaphragmatic breathing exercise and uses the iPhone's touch screen to allow users to record their stress levels by swiping on a visual analogue scale. It also features animation and videos.
Tactical Breathing Trainer helps veterans and other users gain control over physiological and psychological responses to stress. The app is based on tips Lt. Col. Dave Grossman shared in his book "On Combat: The Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace."