Israel and the US to collaborate on PTSD treatment programs

Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan to discuss PTSD in soldiers with US Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin in Washington.

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March 23, 2017 14:48
2 minute read.
An IDF soldier.

An IDF soldier.. (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

 
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Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan will fly to Washington on Friday to meet with US Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin, becoming the third Israeli minister to meet with a Trump administration official in the American capital since January’s inauguration.

It will be the first meeting between the two, during which they are set to discuss having experts from both countries work jointly in the treatment of soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Soldiers experiencing PTSD often re-live traumatic battlefield events through flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety and uncontrollable thoughts, severely impacting the individual’s everyday life. During his four-day trip, Ben-Dahan will tour the Veterans Hospital in Washington with its administrator and meet with wounded soldiers being treated at the facility.

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Last week Shulkin told the House Veteran Affairs committee that veterans who were “other-than-honorably” discharged from the military due to mental health reasons and stripped of their medical benefits might soon be able to receive the care they need. More than 1.6 million US veterans receive mental health treatment from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

“We are going to start providing mental health care for those that are other than honorably discharged for urgent mental health,” Shulkin said, adding that veterans should not have to wait for congressional intervention to get the help that they need.

Shulkin told the committee that he hopes that care will be available within the next few months for those veterans who have been unable to receive care, with hospitals instructed to provide outreach and urgent care treatment for them.

While Israel does not have a specific unit that deals with veterans, as the Unites States does, the Defense Ministry and the IDF provide a variety of services, including mental health treatment, to injured soldiers and their families.

The US and Israel are considered to be leaders in PTSD research. “It is therefore important that our experts and doctors meet,” Ben-Dahan said.



Last year a psychological computerized training technique developed by Israeli researchers and partially funded by the US Army was found to reduce the risk of battleground soldiers with PTSD by close to 70%.

The technique trains participants to pay better attention to potential threats in their surroundings and is said to better prepare soldiers for battle and decrease the chance of developing the disorder following combat. A study conducted by Prof. Yair Bar-Haim and Dr. Ilan Wald – from the Tel Aviv University Psychology Department and Sagol School of Neuroscience – and experts in the IDF Medical Corps, found that soldiers who do not correctly process their surroundings and threats are at higher risk for developing PTSD.

The technique has reportedly been studied closely by the US Army, which was said to have been considering implementing it for their soldiers as well.

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