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One in five returning service members from Iraq suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. An even larger proportion -- 31 percent -- of Vietnam War veterans suffer from PTSD. But despite the disorder's high profile, and potentially debilitating symptoms, war veterans and service members often don't get the help they need.
Enter the PTSD Coach, a recently released iPhone application that aims to help service members and veterans cope with post traumatic anxiety.
What is it? Jointly developed by the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, the PTSD coach employs a variety of cognitive and relaxation strategies to help users deal with some of the commonest symptoms of PTSD -- anger, isolation, anxiety, insomnia and hypervigilance. "Over the past few years, the technological landscape has changed so that the Internet is now more mobile-driven. This is especially true for recently returning service members. We thought that they would appreciate a PTSD tool specifically created for this platform," says Dr. Julia Hoffman, the lead developer for the application.
How useful is it? The application helps PTSD patients via four different avenues. It provides information and education on the disorder itself. It allows users to self-assess and track the severity of their symptoms with the help of a distress meter. It lets them reach out for immediate real-time help -- to 911, local VA support centers or a personal contact -- in the event of a particularly severe attack. And finally, it provides an array of positive coping strategies such as deep breathing, muscle relaxation, inspirational quotes and suggesting time outs.
Since its launch on April 19, the app has seen 8,500 downloads in 33 countries. "We've also seen an increase in the utilization of crisis helplines because of the application," says Hoffman. There's a string of positive reviews on the application's iTunes page. "A must for all active military + vets with dealing with things known only to them," says one reviewer.
Where Can I Get It? Developers are now in the process of creating an Android version and a Family PTSD Coach. Find out more at this Department of Veterans Affairs page.