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IDMH event to address veterans mental health

Engineering Day participants and robots

The Institute for Disaster Mental Health (IDMH) will address the mental health treatment of soldiers returning to civilian life at its fifth annual conference held at the college from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on April 11.

"Healing the Scars of War" will present the latest evidence- informed best practices for assisting returning service personnel experiencing stress reactions.

James Halpern (Psychology), director of the Institute for Disaster Mental Health, said the institute received $10,000 in funding from the New York State Office of Mental Health, $13,000 from the National Institute of Health and $5,000 from Campus Auxiliary Services (CAS) in support of the conference.

During the conference, Halpern and Phyllis Freeman, IDMH board chair and conference co-chair, will conduct research for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

Attendees will be asked to identify the skills and knowledge areas that are vital for working with military personnel and their families and to help identify research gaps. The information will be incorporated into a report for the NIMH.

"Providing the very best mental health care to returning service personnel and their families is a challenge of enormous proportions," said Freeman. "At the IDMH we also recognize that the literature on best-practices for the treatment of combat trauma or family deployment issues is still evolving."

Professor Tabitha Holmes (Psychology) and New Paltz students David Anchin 08g (Psychology), Diane Grimaldi 08 g (Psychology), Rachel Fish 08 (Psychology), Meredith Johnson 09 (Psychology) and Jaymie Lowitt 08g (Psychology), who are minoring in Disaster Studies are assisting with the project.

The conference is intended for mental health professionals, clergy and others who are or will assist returning veterans. However, Halpern said New Paltz students, faculty and staff are invited and encouraged to participate in the informative event for free.

Halpern said the presenters and workshop leaders are among the most well-published and eminent researchers and practitioners in the field of trauma studies and have expertise in treating returning veterans. The events keynote speakers are David Riggs, executive director of the Center for Deployment Psychology and research associate professor at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Maryland, and Patricia Resick, director of the Womens Health Sciences Division of the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder at the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System.

For more information and to register, visit the Web site.


  • There were 23.8 million living U.S. veterans in 2007; 7.5 percent - women.1
  • Most veterans living today served during times of war (largest population: 7.9 million Vietnam Era veterans).1
  • There are more than 71,000 active military personnel and more than 1 million military veterans in New York state.2
  • Almost 20 percent of returning veterans were affected by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).4
  • When troops were screened three to six months after returning home, 24.5 percent of reservists reported mental health problems.3
  • In addition to the problems associated with PTSD, the disorder frequently coexits with other psychiatric disorders, such as other anxiety disorders, depression, substance and alcohol dependence/abuse - all challenges to effective marital, social, and occupational functioning.1
  • In 2007, the total number of mental health cases among war veterans was 100,580.1

1. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2008; 2. NYS Division of Veterans' Affairs, 2007; 3. The Journal of the American Medical Association, 2007; 4. The New England Journal of Medicine, 2005