25th September – 1st October 2017
The Invictus Games 2017
The Invictus Games are an international sporting event for wounded or ill servicemen and women, both serving and veterans. The games are named after the Latin word invictus which means unconquered and suitably describes the fighting attitude that these men and women embody. The games bring people together to help encourage and support the rehabilitation of those military personnel who have been injured. Since their inception in 2013, the games have been held in various locations, this year they are being hosted in Toronto, Canada from the 23rd to the 30th September. Multiple venues have been established around Toronto which will host 12 different sporting events, as well as opening and closing ceremonies.
So far we have seen Michael Clarke win four medals for Canada and Ivan Sears win three gold medals for the USA in various track events. Ukraine’s Serhii Torchynsky also won a bronze medal in the men’s shot put event and Lindsay Chapman took gold for the UK in the women’s 100m race. Many other medals have been awarded with more to come.
Dr Celina Shirazipour, from Dalhousie University and the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research, spoke during the opening ceremony, alongside Prince Harry and Organizing Committee CEO Michael Burns. Dr Shirazipour discussed her recent research that highlights the benefit of the Invictus Games on the rehabilitation of injured servicemen and women by providing them with a goal to work towards and an opportunity to receive recognition and gain exceptional achievement. Being active and participating in sport is well-documented as being therapeutic for both mental and physical health issues that veterans and servicemen and women experience. The research hopes to encourage more international adaptive sports programs, therapies and events to be established for injured military personnel.
To follow the games more closely on the Invictus Games website, click here.
More information on Dr Celina Shirazipour’s research on the healing power of sport can be found here.
18th – 24th of September
KCL to explore Domestic Violence in Military Spouses and Partners with FiMT Award
The Forces in Mind Trust has awarded Kings College London over £150,000 to study domestic abuse and violence in military spouses and partners. The aim is to assess the impact of Service in the Armed Forces on relationships from the perspective of civilian partners’ who have suffered domestic abuse from their military partner. The study is expected to last 18 months and will hopefully determine the prevalence of domestic abuse and violence among military relationships, as well as the perceptions of support available and experiences told by spouses and partners. This will enable better resources to be set up to meet the needs of partners and families of military personnel and to help understand the challenges faced when these individuals are seeking help.
More information can be found here.
Veterans’ Breakfast Club
A pilot veterans’ breakfast club has recently been set up by the Scottish Veterans Residences (SVR) in Glasgow with a hope of bringing veterans together in transitional and permanent accommodation. The program was funded by the Not Forgotten Association and the Lest We Forget Association in a bid to prevent veterans isolating themselves by providing peer-to-peer support. The residence is home to 31 beneficiaries, who require transitional support, and 21 permanent beneficiaries in two-bedroom flats. The breakfast club meets in the block’s café where specialised services and support facilities are also available. The club provides a means by which veterans can socialise with one another, share ideas and access local training and employment opportunities whilst also providing an opportunity for support staff to identify needs that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.
More information can be found here.
11th – 17th of September
Charity Event to Raise Money for Four Charities
City Security and Resilience Networks (CSARN) are hosting a banquet, which will be held at the Honorable Artillery Company, London, in order to raise money for four charities supporting service men and women. The four charities are BLESMA, The Royal British Legion, Crimestoppers and Soldiering On, each doing fantastic work to support service men and women. The event will begin at 6:15pm on the 21st September 2017 and will feature a menu created by Michelin-starred chef Shaun Rankin and entertainment from Kev Orkian. Additionally, the event’s key speaker will be Major General Buster Howes CB OBE, former British Defence Attaché to the United States and Commandant General Royal Marines. An auction will be held to raise money for the charities, featuring exciting experiences such as a day with the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Team.
Grief Screening in Military Mental Health Clinics
Bereavement is a common stressful life experience that follows a course of recovery, usually resulting in the resuming of function within weeks to months. Complicated grief (CG), however, refers to a chronic impairment as a result of bereavement. The military can be at a heightened risk of CG due to the multitude of factors they experience, such as exposure to extreme stress, separation from their families and/or witnessing traumatic deaths. Researchers from the Naval Center for Combat and Operational Stress Control, San Diego, aimed to determine the usefulness of screening for CG in a military mental health clinic. The results indicated that 43.5% of service members accessing the mental health clinic reported to have experienced a traumatic loss that was still affecting them. From these individuals, 61.7% screened positively on the Brief Grief Inventory and 59.2% screened positively on the Inventory for Complicated Grief. Therefore, those service members accessing mental health clinics and those who were troubled by a loss were seen to be at a risk of CG. Multiple losses and losses in deployment correlated with a greater susceptibility to CG symptoms. Grief screening may be beneficial, as part of a mental health evaluation, in order to make health providers aware of CG to appropriately address problems surrounding grief.
The article’s abstract can be accessed here.
4th – 10th September
Researchers Identify Potential Susceptibility for PTSD in Blood Samples
Researchers from Maastricht University in The Netherlands have recently published a paper in Molecular Psychiatry, describing a potential mechanism by which susceptibility for PTSD may occur. There is surmounting evidence to suggest that epigenetics, a change in an organism caused by the modification of gene expression plays a role in adaptation to traumatic stress. One certain type of epigenetic modification is DNA methylation. DNA methylation is a mechanism used by cells to control gene expression, such that not all genes are activated at all times. The researchers aimed to discover whether DNA methylation sites were different among 93 male military members divided into three subgroups (Group 1: high trauma exposure, high PTSD symptoms; Group 2: high trauma exposure, low PTSD symptoms; Group 3: low trauma exposure, low PTSD symptoms). Blood samples were collected before and 6 months after deployment and a replication study was also carried out with 98 additional male military members. Results of the longitudinal study revealed that there was evidence of mediation between combat trauma exposure and the level of PTSD symptoms by DNA methylation at three genomic locations, all on chromosome 6. The identification of these novel genomic alterations will hopefully lead to developments into a better understanding of the mechanisms that may cause susceptibility to develop PTSD.
The full article can be accessed here.
Proposed Update for PTSD Criteria
Two major diagnostic systems that are used worldwide are the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM; currently on its 5th edition) and the International Classification of Diseases (ICD; preparing for an updated 11th edition in 2018). However, the proposed criteria for PTSD in the upcoming ICD-11 differ from that of the DSM-V, such that there will be fewer supposed non-specific symptoms defining PTSD in a bit to reduce comorbidities. Although this alteration may lead to improved diagnostic accuracy, some cases of PTSD may also go undiagnosed. Researchers from the University of North Carolina compared prevalence and psychiatric comorbidities using the two diagnostic systems on US military veterans. The results indicated that ICD-11, compared to the DSM-V, captured significantly fewer cases of PTSD among veterans without lowering the identification of psychiatric comorbidities. This therefore might pose a problem for individuals who may have clinically significant PTSD but are not diagnosed due to the narrower criteria set out by the ICD-11.
The full article can be accessed here.