Free iPhone application aims to help users overcome stigma of seeking support
Veterans and service members with post-traumatic stress disorder can now get support from a new iPhone application from the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments.
The VA’s National Center for PTSD and DOD’s National Center for Telehealth and Technology created the new PTSD Coach application to provide remote support for veterans and service members with PTSD, whether diagnosed or pre-diagnosed, the VA has announced. PTSD is a condition that develops months or years after a trauma and can last for decades. The most recent studies of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars indicated that about 14 percent received the diagnosis, which includes symptoms such as disturbing memories and flashbacks.
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The PTSD Coach application was developed for iPhone, iPad and iTouch to provide a self-assessment for the condition, support and treatment options, and tools for managing daily stress from the condition, according to an April 19 news release. The tools support relaxation and positive self-help strategies, and can be customized with contact phone numbers and e-mail addresses, photographs and music, the departments said. An Android version is coming soon.
Julia Hoffman, clinical psychologist with the VA’s PTSD center, said the mobile application is intended to help veterans get over the difficulties in seeking treatment, and can be used anonymously.
“PTSD is characterized by extreme avoidance,” Hoffman wrote April 19 in the VA’s Vantage Point blog. “Many Veterans also have logistical problems getting to treatment because of their location, transportation options, work schedules, etc. Others fear stigma (being shamed or discriminated against) of having a PTSD diagnosis and receiving treatment.”
She said the developers are hopeful that the mobile application can overcome the logistical problems and when used anonymously, can help overcome the stigma.
“For veterans not yet in treatment, PTSD Coach provides tools for managing stress and helps them to understand their difficulties better and learn more about PTSD treatment,” Hoffman wrote.
Federal agencies have created or sponsored more than 30 free mobile applications in recent months as described at the USA.gov website. Many of them provide tools to general consumers and citizens, while others are aimed at assistance for specialized populations.
Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.