Will the U.S. Army's New Resiliency Training Prevent Mental Distress? Origins of Mental Disorders Must Be Understood

Article excerpt

Congratulations to Gen. George W. Casey Jr. and to the Army for offering its members resiliency training. Recognition on the part of the Army's top brass that steps can be taken to avoid PTSD, anxiety disorders, and depression represents a huge step forward for mental health care.

However, in order for this training to "work," those leaders must accept that mental disorders, like physical disorders, are often rooted in biology. If the generals can come to understand and believe that PTSD has a biological origin and if those generals are able to communicate that message to the young soldiers, the training can have a profound impact. Such a change in military culture could be transformative.

One of the key questions, according to a New York Times article about this new initiative, is whether military personnel will accept educational techniques or whether they will perceive this training as too "emotional or touchy feely" (New York Times, Aug. 18, 2009, p. Al).

If the perception is too "emotional or touchy feely," the program will suffer and enjoy only limited success.

It is essential that any PTSD prevention program explain why some people are more vulnerable than others to experiencing the disorder. In life, as in medical care, some people have clear vulnerabilities to certain problems. Over the years in treating PTSD, I have been successful using relaxation techniques and behavior modification techniques, such as reciprocal inhibition and systematic desensitization, coupled with guided imagery. I wrote about my success in using these techniques many times over the years in The Psychiatrist's Toolbox column. One of those columns focused on treating veterans ("For Vets With PTSD, Try Behavior Modification," November 2007, p. …