Hackernoon logoTechnology’s Role in Helping Veterans Deal With PTSD by@alorphillips

Technology’s Role in Helping Veterans Deal With PTSD

Avery Phillips Hacker Noon profile picture

Avery Phillips

Living with PTSD can be very challenging for veterans trying to integrate back into civilian life. As part of dealing with battle experiences, about 20 percent of veterans end up abusing drugs or alcohol after they return home, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

They state that PTSD affects roughly 33 percent of soldiers. The symptoms of PTSD are difficult to live with and can include depression, difficulty sleeping, isolation, aggression, irritation, fear, and self-destructive behaviors. Veterans use alcohol and drugs to lessen the symptoms, but such dependency inevitably makes things worse.

The VA also reports that 20 veterans suffering from PTSD take their lives every day. Because of that statistic, developers have created some innovative apps to help vets who have PTSD.

The Challenges of Transitioning Back to Civilian Life

For many vets, transitioning back into civilian life is an extreme challenge. Battle zones present such surreal situations that getting back to normal routines and jobs can feel uncomfortable. Every year more than 250,000 military people leave active duty to return home and face this jarring change.

This change extends to the difficulties of finding meaningful employment after returning home. Some veterans have never had a civilian job before or created a resume. Many have difficulty relating to anyone outside of the military. The focus while in service is very narrow. It can be overwhelming and confusing for veterans dealing with so many options and choices when looking for employment.

It can also be difficult to translate their military experience into marketable skills for civilian life. The Veterans Administration helps a lot of veterans find a career path, create resumes, and complete job applications.

Apps Designed to Help With PTSD

Veterans who struggle with alcohol or drug abuse can use the VetChange app developed by the VA to help reduce alcohol use and abuse. It is also designed to help with moods and cravings. A similar app called StayQuit is for assisting vets to quit smoking.

PTSD Coach is another useful app designed specifically for veterans to help with various symptoms of the ailment. It also provides various tools to help users develop self-help strategies. One of the major symptoms of PTSD is difficulty focusing. VA-sponsored Mindfulness Coach is aimed at assisting veterans to regain focus. This app can also help with other mental illness issues.

My3 is a crucial technological aid to connect veterans with trusted friends if they are experiencing suicidal ideation. Although it was not designed specifically for veterans, it has been used by the ex-military community quite extensively.

Ex-military veterans Justin Miller and Chris Mercado collaborated on an app called ObjectiveZero for vets that helps strangers connect with each other. Often veterans feel more comfortable around other military personnel. The app has two roles and, depending on a soldier’s state of mind, he can either get help or provide it to other veterans. The app has spawned over 16,000 text messages and 350 hours of support phone calls.

Education and Transitioning Back Into Civilian Life

Many veterans feel unprepared and unqualified for civilian jobs. Combined with adjusting to “normal” life, this can cause a great deal of strain. One way to ease back into civilian life is to consider higher education to earn a degree to supplement skills developed during active duty.

Many schools have special programs and financial aid for veteran students. Washington State University, for example, has special programs to help vets get back on their feet and improve their skills through education. Their MBA program is specifically designed for ex-military, and they understand firsthand the difficulties that veterans face. The college offers a wide variety of degree programs, including online courses to help vets earn a degree in as little as 18 months.

The Impact of Self-Improvement Apps and Why They Work

Successful apps solve problems or serve a need. A good idea is not enough to make an app work; it also needs a good interface and should be reliable and bug-free. For apps designed to help people, this is even more true. It is also critical that they are updated frequently and evolve with the users’ needs.

Self-improvement apps generally have an impact almost immediately. This quick support keeps users coming back. If the app doesn’t start off helping, it will be abandoned. Quick navigation is also essential for people looking to get help.

An excellent self-help app will also set the user up for another session, as a recap after the first. The program starts with a goal and then builds upon the success with each new level. Many meditation apps do this well. Some apps put control in the user’s hands by allowing them to set up triggers or reminders of things they need help with.

When dealing with the effects of PTSD, veterans need to feel tangible results immediately or they will abandon the use of technology for help. The apps designed for soldiers that are developed by ex-military often factor in these concerns. Not only are these apps helping alleviate symptoms of PTSD, they are also saving lives.


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