Interactive Program Offers Resiliency Training for Veterans' Families
Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (Jan. 14, 2013) – The difficulties military veterans face transitioning to non-deployment life often have a dramatic effect on others living in the same household. With a goal to provide spouses, children and other members of the home critical skills they need to support their veterans while managing the challenges encountered during this transition period, the University of Central Missouri is introducing the Kognito Interactive program, “Family of Heroes.”
Now available at no cost to participants, this is a confidential, one-hour, avatar-based, online simulation program that will teach family members how to identify post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal intent and how to connect the veteran with resources. The program is being implemented by the Military and Veterans Success Center at UCM with funding from the Missouri Suicide Prevention Project under a grant provided from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Missouri Partners in Prevention, the Missouri Institute of Mental Health at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, and the Missouri Department of Mental Health are also helping to make it possible.
Lynn Lowder, UCM’s director of Military and Veterans Services, said this is a critical and timely program for this region. With nearby Whiteman Air Force Base and an Army National Guard unit in Warrensburg, the university is part of a community with many military families that may be dealing with issues related to PTSD.
“We are expanding our services in the area of mental wellness not only to veterans but to a wider community. I don’t think there is any university that is going after PTSD as aggressively as UCM,” Lowder said.
VA statistics demonstrate why there is such a need for this program. It is estimated that a third of returning veterans experience PTSD, traumatic brain injury or major depression, but only half seek medical attention. In 2010, more than 408,000 veterans were diagnosed with PSTD and received treatment at a VA medical center and clinics.
Delilah Nichols, coordinator of the Military and Veterans Success Center, will work with individuals who want to take advantage of this new opportunity, which is being provided to the university at no cost. She stressed that confidentiality is a major component of the program.
Nichols said military veterans, especially those who have seen combat, are often haunted by their experiences, and many will need counseling to overcome the mental trauma they sustain.
“This isn’t something you just turn off overnight. They are lifelong memories that change you forever,” she said. On the other hand, Nichols added, spouses who had to adapt to managing the household while the veteran was deployed, have to readjust to their own changing roles once the veteran has returned and attempts to transition into a stronger household role. This can also create stress within the home.
Amy Kiger, director of Violence and Substance Abuse Prevention at UCM, was instrumental in helping the university to implement the program. She said that through role-play with avatars, program participants will enter a virtual environment and assume roles of different family members. They will learn by engaging in realistic practice conversations with avatars acting and responding like real veterans who are experiencing post-deployment stress. They will discover how to start a conversation in a neutral way that allows them to express their concern about a family member’s behavior without the situation escalating into anger. The conversations used in this program were created by Kognito and based on real stories that were gathered in interviews with veterans and their families.
“This is an excellent program,” Kiger said. “A high school student could actually take it, if they are concerned about a parent.”
Individuals who are interested in participating in the program are urged to contact Nichols or Lowder at the Military and Veterans Success Center at 660-543-8776. Family members and friends of veterans at the University of Central Missouri can access the PTSD and resiliency training online.