Defense app aims to help military families cope with mental health issues

The Defense Department has created a mobile app called LifeArmor to help military families develop coping skills and deal with common mental health concerns.

LifeArmor takes content from DoD's AfterDeployment website on dealing with the challenges of military life. It includes information, assessments, videos with personal stories and interactive exercises on 17 topics: alcohol and drugs, anger, anxiety, depression, families and friendships, families with kids, life stress, mild traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma, physical injury, post-traumatic stress, resilience, sleep, spirituality, stigma, tobacco, and work adjustment. 

The app, designed for Apple and Android devices, can be downloaded for free at the App Store, Google Play and soon on the Amazon Marketplace, according to an announcement.

AfterDeployment, which launched in 2008, provides content aimed at service members returning from combat deployments. It was developed by psychologists at the Defense Department's National Center for Telehealth and Technology, known as T2, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, near Tacoma, Wash.

One of the psychologists, Robert Ciulla, warned that while the app's assessments can bring potential problem areas to light, they're not intended to replace professional counseling.

The Defense Department and the Veterans Administration have been working to expand mental health services and experimenting with various technical means to do so. Last month the VA announced it had set a goal of providing 200,000 remote consultations this year through videoconferencing. It's experimenting with handing out iPads to caregivers through its Clinic-in-Hand pilot program. The tablets will give them access to VA apps, a mobile EHR and other mobile resources.

The VA also has funded a study at Stanford University on how mobile apps can help patients experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

An article on the T2 website highlights its study of virtual reality in therapy for PTSD, recreating a personalized scenario in which the patient was traumatized and forcing the patient to face it head-on. DoD and VA use myriad treatments for PTSD, though a recent report from the Institute of Medicine rapped them for failing to track them and their effectiveness.

To learn more:
- read the announcement
- learn more about LifeArmor
- check out AfterDeployment
- here's the T2 PTSD article