A Way for Student Veterans to Help Their Families

Photo courtesy of the VA

Photo courtesy of the VA

Military service involves more than the person wearing the uniform – families are always a part of that equation.

A team of three University of South Florida psychology doctoral students and a graduate of the School of Social Work are conducting a research study looking at how reintegration affects military veterans and their children.

Their focus looks at how veterans are “reintegrating” to both civilian and academic life and also examines the student veterans’ well-being and that of their children.

The USF Coming Home Project is an anonymous online survey for student veterans who qualify:

  • You must currently be enrolled as a student.
  • You must be a veteran of Iraq or Afghanistan.
  • You have children between the ages of 6 and 18.

The online survey only requires about 15-20 minutes and is anonymous. It examines the impact of deployments on children in military families.

Information about the Coming Home Project survey is available here.

Wanted: Student Veterans with Kids for a Survey

Credit: USF Coming Home Project.

Credit: USF Coming Home Project.

The number of veterans using the Post-9/11 GI Bill passed 1 million in November according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. And the number of student veterans is expected to swell as another million service members transition out of the military over the next five years.

It raises the challenge of how to best help those Iraq and Afghanistan veterans transition into an educational setting.

So, a team of University of South Florida graduate students created the Coming Home research project. They had noticed there was very little research that followed the children of veterans after they returned from deployment and as they transitioned out of the military.

So the researchers designed a 20-minute survey to identify the physical and mental stresses experienced by student veterans and their children.

“According to literature, it has been shown that veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are experiencing more post-traumatic stress, depression, suicide,” said Esther Davila, a doctoral student with the USF Psychology Program. “So if we can kind of start pinpointing those, I think it will help streamline treatment for veterans a little better.”

The Coming Home team needs 100 student veterans to participate. The criteria are pretty straightforward:

  • Must be a veteran of Iraq or Afghanistan
  • Must be a student at any of the USF campuses or Hillsborough Community College Dale Mabry Campus
  • Must have at least one child between 6 and 18 years old

Active-duty service members who fit those qualifications can also participate

The Coming Home project offers a $15 incentive for student veterans who complete the survey and they can be entered into a drawing for $100. But the true payoff could be their survey findings.

To participate, you can email vetreintigraton@gmail.com or call 813-974-9222 and ask to speak to a member of the Coming Home team to set up an appointment.

Veterans Needed to Help Complete a PTSD Study

You don’t have to have a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to participate in this study. The control group comes from veterans who have no exposure to combat or PTSD.

But, veterans with a PTSD diagnosis but not on any medication are also needed to complete the initial study by Draper Laboratories in Cambridge and Tampa’s University of South Florida.

Draper researchers are trying to find a more reliable way to diagnose PTSD by measuring physiological responses like heart rate, perspiration and respiration.

David O’Dowd, a program manager with Draper, said preliminary findings show that people with PTSD react differently to stimuli than those without the anxiety disorder.

Draper researcher Ashley Vincent and program manager David O'Dowd.

“One of things I felt was interesting is the sound of helicopters,” O’Dowd said. “The control group was much more responsive to that than either of the combat trauma – with or without the PTSD. They were like ‘oh, yeah, yeah, yeah,’ and other people were like ‘Oh! What’s that?’”

O’Dowd said finding the final few participants has been slow because the criteria has limited which combat veterans qualify.

“The group we’re looking for that has PTSD, they can’t be on medications and that’s been the real Bah-Boom,” O’Dowd said. “That’s kind of hard. So, we’re trying to start with people who are younger and more newly diagnosed.”

Draper is reaching out to new veteran college students among others. To learn more on whether you qualify and how to participate in the research study, you can contact Draper Laboratories at USF at 813/465-5482. Leave a message and some will contact you said Ashley Vincent, a Draper researcher at USF.

Promising PTSD Research Will Soon Open to Veterans

USF Associate Professor Kevin Kip is the Executive Director of the USF College of Nursing Research Center which will soon be enrolling veterans for PTSD and TBI studies.

University of South Florida researchers briefed Tampa Congresswoman Kathy Castor Thursday afternoon on a wide range of scientific studies she helped to get funded through Congress. The USF College of Nursing receive $2.1 million to conduct five different studies aimed at helping combat veterans restore their lives.

One of the research projects Castor was updated on is called Accelerated Resolution Therapy or ART for short. It’s a therapy for people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that uses one-on-one therapy and rapid eye movement to help replace disturbing images from the traumatic event.

Epidemiologist Dr. Kevin Kip is the principal investigator for the ART research and the other four studies at USF College of Nursing. He said another study of the Accelerated Resolution Therapy is already underway.

“We’re doing a study on civilians right now and we have treated a few veterans,” Kip said. “We’re getting pretty good results and so we’re anxious to apply it directly to veterans.”

Kip expects to start enrolling veterans in the ART study at the end of July. Enrollment for the civilian ART study is still open. For details on the civilian ART study you can call 813/974-9310.

The College of Nursing soon will start signing up veterans for two web-based therapies. One study is for veterans with PTSD who may want to remain anonymous and the other online research study is for veterans with mild Traumatic Brain Injury.

A fourth research study will look at the prevalence of PTSD in both active duty military and veterans. Current estimates are that 20 percent of combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan return with PTSD symptoms.

“We essentially want to either validate the current literature or turn it on its head and say well maybe it’s not as accurate as people think and maybe the problems are even worse than their presently reported,” Kip said.

Women veterans are the focus of the fifth research study. There will be a celebration for the women who have served scheduled Veterans Day, November 11, 2001 at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa. The female veterans will be celebrated and treated to things like free massages, but they’ll also be screened for physical and psychological effects of military service.

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