Improving Military Mental Health Programs

In my time as a military nurse, I had direct and daily exposure to the behavioral health implications of military life. Although behavioral health challenges are nothing new to service members and their families, veterans and active-duty military personnel are facing higher rates of behavioral health challenges since COVID-19 began. 

Unfortunately, too often the VA hospitals, base providers and other clinicians who care for this population are strapped for resources and appropriate clinical support. Meanwhile, the stigma around mental health continues to pose a unique challenge for this group —leading many into crisis situations that could have been avoided with proper preventative care. 

With the right technology and resources, care providers have the opportunity to empower service members and veterans with effective self-care solutions without increased staff burdens. I’ve shared below some steps that can be taken to address this issue to ensure behavioral health gets the attention and response it deserves in our military communities.

De-Stigmatize Self-Care

There are a number of self-care options available for veterans and service members. This ranges from Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) Benefits for active duty service members to nonprofit initiatives for veterans, such as Warriors at Ease. Behavioral health technology and self-care apps are one option to free up clinical resources by enabling low to moderate risk individuals to manage their behavioral health conditions from the convenience of their own phones or devices. However, adoption of these tools among military populations can be a challenge; it requires a sense of vulnerability. By positioning self-care as a positive psychology tool as opposed to a crisis resource, providers can help military personnel view behavioral health programs as a means to improve their human performance and resilience — to perform at their best in the field, office, or back home.

Triage with Technology

With a 20% increase in veteran suicide in 2020, the ability to quickly identify individuals in crisis is critical.  Even those who appear “happy” on the surface may be struggling beneath. We need to meet service members where they are.  A third of surveys service members stated they would not be willing to see a therapist in person, but they would be willing to use a technology-based behavioral health solution.  Behavioral health tools and technologies should be able to stratify individuals by risk level, allowing providers and care coordinators to react in near-real time to those who need intervention. Tools like these give clinical experts critical insight into how those on active duty and veterans are doing throughout their entire healthcare journey. Staff resources can then be allocated to those most in need to avoid costly — and at times tragic — emergency situations.

Track Progress & Protect Confidentiality 

Behavioral health tools and resources also should be equipped with measurement capabilities to track progress at both the population and individual levels. De-identified reporting protects confidentiality to boost program participation while ensuring the appropriate commanders or medical providers have visibility into important trends. With these capabilities, service members and veterans can look back and see incremental gains in their care journey, while leaders can more effectively evaluate behavioral and mental health programs — and their impact on readiness — in a data-driven fashion.

The most powerful behavioral health tools bridge the gap between self-care and healthcare by embedding behavioral health expertise into physical health, placing technology at the center of truly collaborative care. Modern behavioral health solutions should make it easy to execute effective behavioral health programs with less effort and better outcomes — integrating directly into provider workflows and individuals’ personal mobile devices.

In the era of COVID-19 and beyond, as behavioral health needs surge and healthcare providers remain overloaded, delivering stronger support for service members through collaborative behavioral health technologies is nothing short of mission-critical. Behavioral health solutions have the power to transform and save lives, leading to a more resilient military community at the ready.

Learn more about how NeuroFlow is actively supporting military mental wellness.

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