Military Pathways, a collaboration launched by the US Department of Defense and the non-profit organization, Screening for Mental Health, provides anonymous, interactive support for veterans, or family members of veterans, who are wondering how to address mental health concerns and whether they should seek additional help.
Its new website, www.militarymentalhealth.org, invites users to select either an anonymous general screening (“tell us how you’re feeling”) or a specific screening for depression, alcohol use, anxiety, PTSD, or other possible problems. Based on the results of the screening, the user is then directed to a range of helpful videos and files that provide practical advice, role play scenarios, and discussion of symptoms, alternatives, and available support.
Users who complete anonymous screening for depression or PTSD are then invited to “consult” the Video Doctor (see below), who provides a brief, engaging explanation of the condition in question, recommends possible steps, and asks the user a few interactive questions, which the user can answer using the computer keyboard.
Users may express interest in learning more, considering self help options, selecting a self-help method to try, or examining a wide range of helpful information and tips elsewhere on the site. The program also provides recommendations on how and where to access mental health resources, including information about services provided through the Department of Defense and Veteran Affairs.
"By increasing awareness and understanding about depression and PTSD, it is our hope that Video Doctor reduces stigma and increases motivation to develop help-seeking behaviors," says Lt Col Hans Ritschard, USAF, BSC, PhD, Director of Psychological Health Strategic Operations, Force Health Protection and Readiness Programs. "The interactive nature of Video Doctor and the non-judgmental language is extremely helpful. It's both non-threatening and completely anonymous, enabling service members and their families to get a better understanding of mental health services available."
"The concept behind Video Doctor is based on 20 years of research and has been well-documented in helping to screen people who may be exhibiting high-risk behaviors," says Barbara Gerbert, Ph.D., of the University of California San Francisco and the creator of Video Doctor. "In addition, our studies also indicate that this program results in getting more people to follow up by seeing a health care provider."
Military Pathways will launch new video doctor components for generalized anxiety disorder and alcohol use disorders on the web site in the summer of 2011.