Can Video Games Help with PTSD?

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Written by Lynn Goya,

Who says kids are spending too much time playing video games?  What we need are more games, according to the Pentagon. The U.S. Military has used video games’ lure to recruit volunteers; to train soldiers; and to fight wars.  But the Pentagon just released a new video game designed for something completely different — to lower blood pressure and adrenaline, instead of raising it.

T2 Virtual PTSD Experience helps combat the terror of going to a mall or attending a kid’s parent teacher conference.  Those suffering from the traumas of war often find that crowds and public places and events trigger the intense emotional reactions appropriate during combat.  Using the theory that game playing can prepare soldiers for that adrenaline rush experienced during battle, the Pentagon believes that letting soldiers practice non-threatening experiences in virtual reality can help them cope when the virtual becomes real.

The project was developed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord for the Department of Defense to help soldiers and their loved ones explore in an anonymous, non-threatening setting the causes and symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Veterans can access T2 via the popular Second Life game where they can tour “Psychological Health Island.”

“We hope that providing a place like this in Second Life will give you a chance to get back your first life,” says program developer Kevin Holloway  in an introductory video.

T2 isn’t the only high-tech self-treating resource for veterans.  One of the largest hurdles that the VA has faced is that there is still a self-imposed stigma about admitting that you are not able to “get over” PTSD on your own.  Combat troops and veterans are reluctant to reach out for mental health help.  In October, 2010, the National Center for Telehealth and Technology, a three-year program at Lewis-McChord in Washington state that has been funded by the Pentagon, released a mobile phone application designed to let the user track his/her moods.  Another program, www.afterdeployment.org, guides veterans as they readjust to civilian life after combat.

Over half of officers and enlisted soldiers believe accessing mental health services would negatively impact their career. Designers hope that the anonymity and control gaming offers will empower those with PTSD to take control of their mental health without having to face the fear of social or professional repercussions that many associate with seeking help.

Author

Lynn Goya

Lynn Goya is a regional best-selling author and Emmy-nominated writer who covers business, people, the environment, and families for regional, national and international publications including USA Today, Audubon and Outdoor Family. With many family members in the military, including an uncle who was a fighter pilot and POW in WW II, she has long been an advocate for military men and women.

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