Resiliency is well known and heavily promoted within the NSO community. The term is continuously used, programs are built around it, service-members are expected to work to achieve it, and the word itself sounds appealing. But how familiar are we with its definition and exactly how do we acquire it?
What is Resiliency?
The military tends to use the American Psychological Association's definition of resilience: The ability to maintain functional levels of physical and mental health following traumatic exposure.
In the case of Navy Special Operations (NSO), this is more specific to Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Blast exposure has been documented as the leading cause of mild TBI (mTBI) in military personnel, accounting for 60% of reported cases.
With the NSO community being heavily comprised of Navy EOD technicians, (who are vulnerable even during training) this number is quite alarming. Most of these symptoms decrease within days of the incident, but for a large portion, symptoms persist. On average, two-thirds of individuals with TBI regain 80% of functioning within the first six months and routinely will continue to improve. The term Post-concussion syndrome (PCS) is used to describe symptoms that persist.
In the case of combat-related blast exposure, there are a few factors which not only worsen the symptoms but make the care plan challenging to construct.
The majority of those who've sustained an mTBI in combat, due to the nature of the incident, are unable to seek medical attention until they've returned from deployment. Many of these individuals aren't thoroughly examined at all. This increases the length of time between injury and assessment and can lead to the accumulation of multiple, untreated mTBIs, which has been associated with a higher risk of psychological conditions.
Also at play is the significant increase in risk for the co-occurrence of PTSD. When these conditions co-occur, they often negatively affect daily occupational and social functioning.
The symptoms of PTSD and TBI are so extremely similar, only exceptionally sensitive equipment such as QEEGs are able to differentiate the two. While routine EEGs, CT, and MRI scans are helpful to a certain degree, there has been a lot of criticism as to their ability to detect mild TBIs.
The military has commonly promoted resilience through the following core competencies; self-awareness, self-regulation, optimism, mental agility, character strengths, and connection.
How does NSOF fit into all of this?
Based on the principle that each mTBI event is unique, we believe that the methods and experience of resiliency in recovery should be as well.
Rather than painting NSO service members into a box and using "one size fits all" modalities, our Warrior Care Program (WCP) focuses on the overall health and wellness of NSO service-members and their family and allows for individual-based care, vetted by experts in the field. To date, NSOF has supported close to 100 NSO service members and funded over $20,000 towards our WCP, which we hope to expand considerably this year.
We believe that our three-prong approach addresses all aspects of successful resiliency.
Warrior Care Committee (WCC)
Our Warrior Care Committee (WCC) concentrates on outreach as well as assessing individuals to determine which path would be the best fit for them. This committee is comprised of NSOF eligible members working with subject matter experts and NSO liaisons to vet and provide the best programs possible for our community.
Operator Reset Initiative
The Operator Reset Initiative is designed to unite those separated from the NSO community with Active Duty NSO service members, for the betterment of both. We achieve this through funded getaways like ski trips, hiking, or other such activities which remove these members away from daily stresses and allow the opportunity for genuinely organic and unscripted relationship bonding between members.
Vetted Resources and Partnerships
Lastly, our Vetted Resources and Partnerships. There is currently an inconceivable number of programs and organizations which exist to address the veteran crisis our nation faces, and this can be incredibly daunting as an individual attempting to find the correct resource.
NSOF aims to be the bridge that connects our own families and members to a finite and select group of resources that have been meticulously vetted by NSO stakeholders, "those within our own community, for our own community."
Through support such as service dogs, Hyperbaric oxygen treatment (HBOT), art therapy, QEEG mapping, and neurofeedback, we genuinely believe that nothing should be off the table when it comes to realizing what successful resiliency is.
If you or someone you know could benefit from our Warrior Care Program or would be interested in volunteering, please do not hesitate to contact our lead coordinator, Emily Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On behalf of NSOF, thank you for your continued support!
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