Army Secretary John McHugh sat down with Stars and Stripes Tuesday to talk about a broad range of issues, including the Armys efforts to combat post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
Q: Where do you feel the Army needs to improve when it comes to treating PTSD and TBI?
A: Well, I just this morning returned from my my most recent visit to Walter Reed, and its clear as you go through those wards that obviously this is an ongoing challenge, and one that while I think weve made a lot of progress on, particularly from the diagnostic and treatment side, we have to continue to do better.
Weve come to a point where we recognize that this is not fabricated; its not something wrapped up in an individuals mind, but something that is a true medical condition. And of course, in the cases of TBI, a challenge that really requires new treatments and the application of the latest technologies, and thats happening but it is for as many years as this issue has been around be it shell shock or be it bullet fatigue, or whatever it may be its one where we are just starting to understand more fully.
Q: When you say there still needs to be some progress made, what were you thinking of specifically?
A: Well I think at the treatment level, weve got to continue our efforts to improve how we deal with the aftermath of these injures. In my recent visit out to Fort Bliss, I was able to visit the [Warrior Transition Unit] there, and they have a program that uses a very holistic approach to PTSD: from counseling to traditional and non-traditional applications of medicine, and they are having some what looks to be some very significant success.
Its that kind of innovative approach, I think, that weve got to embrace, because there is no right way to treat these things and wrong way to treat them, but rather there is a need to understand how we can apply the latest technologies and the most broad-based approach to helping these folks get better, and thats true in both TBI and PTSD, even though, obviously, theyre two very different challenges.
Q: Now, if you go to, say, Fort Campbell, you may get different treatment than if you go to Fort Carson. Would you like to see some kind of standardized regiment for PTSD?
A: Well, there are baselines. I mean, were not just throwing things at the wall and hoping some of it sticks, but as the practitioners and the medical specialists have looked at ways to help, they are, I think with some success, bringing in new approaches that are not yet part of the base discipline.
By 'base' I mean the baseline discipline of treatment. But [they] need to be explored and certainly some of them might become standard treatment. You want to make sure you are providing the kinds of known approaches that have had efficacy and ensuring that those who are in need of treatment are getting those applications, but we need to explore other approaches that hopefully add to the spectrum of care and produce better results.
PHOTO: U.S. ARMY.