Online Program

A PTSD & resiliency virtual reality simulation for military families to increase veterans' utilization of mental health services

Monday, November 4, 2013 : 12:30 p.m. - 12:50 p.m.

Glenn Albright, PhD, Department of Psychology, Baruch College of the City University of New York, New York, NY
A RAND study found that less than 50% of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) seek professional help. The consequences of untreated PTSD and depression can be devastating and lead to substance abuse, increased irritability or violence, social isolation, unemployment, divorce, and suicide. According to a recent report by the Department of Veterans Affairs, 18 veterans commit suicide every day, adding up to over 6,500 veteran suicides a year. There is a critical need to better detect and refer for treatment those veterans who are experiencing debilitating consequences of traumatic wartime events.

To help address the need to get at-risk veterans connected with mental health services, the VA of NY/NJ partnered with a simulation developer to create an interactive, web-based training simulation that helps military families build skills and confidence to identify when their veteran is exhibiting signs of post-deployment stress including TBI, depression, suicidal ideation, and PTSD and how to apply motivational interviewing techniques to motivate them to take an active role their care and seek help. In the simulation, learners engage in challenging role-play conversations with emotionally-responsive veteran avatars manifesting symptoms of post-deployment stress.

A peer-reviewed randomized controlled study found that the simulation is an effective tool to engage families in taking an active role in motivating their veterans, who exhibit signs of post-deployment stress, to seek help at the VA or non-VA resources. Additionally, 31% of the veterans approached by the family member participating in the experimental group started to receive mental health treatment versus 0% for those who were not approached. Launched in 11/2011, the simulation has been made freely available to all military families in New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Virginia, Arizona, and units of the Air Force and National Guards. The training has been accessed by over 67,000 people since its launch.

The presentation will include background on the development process of the simulation, a short demo, discussion of the study results, overview of how the VA and state agencies have come together to disseminate the program, and a discussion on how this type of simulation technology can contribute to health agencies' public health models.

Learning Areas:

Administer health education strategies, interventions and programs
Advocacy for health and health education
Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Explain how virtual reality conversation technology work and can address critical needs in the areas of health and behavioral health. Demonstrate how the VA has utilized a virtual reality simulation to increase the number of veterans with PTSD that seek help Describe the results of a randomized controlled study that analyzed the effectiveness of the simulation

Keyword(s): Veterans' Health, Training

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Dr. Albright is the former Chair of the Department of Psychology at Baruch College and has received distinguished teaching awards at both Baruch and New York University. He is actively involved in publishing and presenting at numerous conferences addressing how game-based role-play training simulations can cost-effectively support public health initiatives designed to impact large numbers of people to bring about permanent changes in behavior in the areas of health, and behavioral health.
Any relevant financial relationships? Yes

Name of Organization Clinical/Research Area Type of relationship
Kognito Interactive Director of Applied Research Co-Founder

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.