BOSTON - Post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide are major concerns at the Department of Veterans Affairs, where people are constantly working to combat the issues.
Now, a Boston-based company is working to help them, with a new wave of technology that can help doctors, nurses and even insurance company call centers, give veterans sufficient support when they reach out for help.
Coming home from war can be difficult for veterans. All too often, the barrier to treatment is the stigma that surrounds mental health and PTSD, says Air Force veteran Ed DiStefano.
“It was always ‘keep it to yourself,’" DiStefano explained by phone. “There's not enough help for the veterans.”
He told us he's seen friends struggle with the effects of PTSD and has met many more through a therapeutic group called Yoga Warriors.
According the Department of Veteran's Affairs, 20 veterans committed suicide every day in 2014.
Reversing that trend is now a top priority.
Boston’s Cogito has partnered with the VA to provide information to prevent suicide before mental health issues escalate.
“The government in general has actually been extremely forward looking with respect to novel technologies to help with the solution,” Cogito’s Joshua Feast said.
They've launched studies that allow veterans to be monitored by health professionals, but many want to remain anonymous.
So they created a “Companion App” that helps monitor the impact of PTSD in a soldier’s life.
“You can self-report how you’re feeling, your level of trauma or dysfunction,” Cogito’s Hannah Rubin explained. “It can help improve self-knowledge privately.”
But Cogito says the way veterans are treated when they reach out for help is critical too.
“We also have the technology working in call centers staffed by nurses,” said Rubin.
The company says they've learned that when insurance or mental health call centers speak to someone who's struggling, how they're treated on the phone can determine whether the patient follows through on treatment.
Their “Dialogue App” helps guide call center workers to react to a patient's specific needs and provides another tool to help veterans in what is often a battle for their lives.
The company says they'd eventually like to see the Dialogue App used at suicide prevention hotlines.
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