The Trauma Lines Blog

Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists

Prevention: An Emerging Frontier in Mental Health

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 Major strides have been taken to predetermine which individuals are more susceptible to post-traumatic stress. Unfortunately, mental health professionals, like Dr. Robert Heinssen of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), will reluctantly tell you that they don’t quite have stress risk predictions completely figured out. 

The NIMH has dedicated years to researching traumatic stress reactions, as well as ways to determine which individuals may be more susceptible to long-term mental health issues stemming from traumatic stress.

In June of 2008, the United States military reached out to the NIMH to help them expand their suicide prevention program. It has been well-documented, especially as of late, that military suicide has risen dramatically. To the military’s credit, they have taken this problem very seriously, said Dr. Heinssen.

Recent military efforts to curb soldier suicide have been structured to put just as much emphasis on a soldier’s mental health as their physical strength. The Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program has been designed to develop both strong minds and strong bodies.

While the NIMH’s goal is to learn stress risk predictions for the entire population, they feel adamantly that what they have, and what they will continue to, learn from the military experience will help them serve everyone better over the long run. Dr. Heinssen says the hundreds of thousands of soldiers that have participated in the NIMH’s research on stress risk predictions, have created a “platform” which has substantially highlighted “risk and protective factors.”

The dimensions of conflict that these soldiers are facing – the volunteer nature of their work, multiple deployments, battle, etc. – all bring about different levels and reactions to traumatic experiences, which have in turn helped researchers to develop innovative risk prediction tools and strategies.

I really encourage everyone to watch the “Speaking of Science Series — Discussion on PTSD” video from the NIMH. It’s only about 11 minutes long, but both Dr. Robert Heinssen and Dr. Farris Tuma of the NIMH explain how the emergence of prevention has greatly served to increase their industry’s fight, especially within the U.S. military, against traumatic reactions to stress.

Readers: In what other ways have you seen prevention used in the spectrum of mental health?

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Written by traumalines

December 31, 2009 at 2:49 am

One Response

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  1. […] What’s also encouraging about this study is that it showcases another example of how prevention is becoming more prominent in the world of mental health treatment. (For more on this subject, be sure to read our post — from all the way in December of 2009 – titled “Prevention: An Emerging Frontier in Mental Health.” […]


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