The Story Behind The Story
It hit the news big after the Secretary of Veterans Affairs wrote about it on the White House blog. Veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) now can turn to their mobile devices for help, thanks to a new PTSD application. The story behind the story is that this app was created by Dr. Julia Hoffman, clinician at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System's (VAPAHCS) National Center for PTSD (NCPTSD).
Dr. Hoffman conceived the application, hiring and interfacing with local contracted developers in Palo Alto. VAPAHCS psychologists served as subject matter experts and crafted all of the content for the app.
In addition to creating the app, Dr. Hoffman worked with VA Central Office and General Counsel to manage all of the necessary hurdles for pushing the application out to a public audience via Apple's iTunes store. "The mobile application is intended to help Veterans get over the difficulties in seeking treatment and can be used anonymously," said Dr. Hoffman.
"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."
The PTSD Coach is the first of a series of resources being offered for PTSD sufferers from the VA National Center for PTSD and the Defense Department's National Center for Telehealth and Technology.
Dr. Hoffman is continuing development of other, similar apps. The next app to be developed will be the PTSD Family Coach, which will support family members of individuals with PTSD. Dr. Hoffman and her staff are also developing apps that will help patients and providers to engage in evidence-based care.
The free application, now available via iTunes for the iPhone, also provides people with accurate information about PTSD, so the agencies are encouraging family members and friends of Veterans suffering from it to download it as well. The agencies also plan to release an Android version of the app by mid-June.
Dr. Hoffman emphasized that the applications are meant to be a supplement and not be a replacement for mental health treatment and other medical services available to Veterans through VA benefits. She said she is hopeful that the mobile application can help overcome the social stigma associated with mental health, since it can be used anonymously. "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 treatments that are available," said Hoffman.