Technology Breaks Down Barriers to Treatment
March 13, 2019 | 3-minute read
As a Veteran who served in the U.S. Army and Reserve for nearly two decades and deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Balkans, Jennifer was surprised to face one of her greatest challenges when she returned home.
“Getting out of the Army was a little more difficult,” she says. “I couldn’t relate to a lot of people in the civilian world.”
Jennifer lost the desire to go out and enjoy life. She often slept all day or retreated to her room, pushing away her friends and family. “I didn’t take care of myself,” she says. “I didn’t eat well. I didn’t communicate well with my husband. It put a big strain on our relationship because he didn’t know how to talk to me because of my depression. I didn’t know how to talk to him, either.”
The sun rose. The sun set. Holidays passed. But I didn’t enjoy it. Life was working me — I wasn’t living life.Jennifer
As time passed, Jennifer found herself alone and isolated. The effects of depression prevented her from making — or maintaining — meaningful connections with her closest family members and friends. “I withdrew from everybody. I chose not to talk,” Jennifer says. “I would get off the phone quickly or not even take calls. I wouldn’t return emails. And after a while, people stopped calling and stopped emailing.”
Making a Change
When Jennifer reflects on her inspiration to reach out for support after going through the motions for so long, she recalls one key event: the birth of her nephew. Since she never had kids of her own, she really wanted to be there for him — to watch him grow up, offer advice, and share her experiences and perspective with him.
“It prompted me that I needed to stop pushing away and find the help I needed,” she says. “So I turned to the VA counseling system.”
At VA, Jennifer was introduced to VA TeleMental Health — videoconferencing technology that connects patients with a VA mental health care provider through a computer or mobile device in their home or at their nearest VA health facility. The convenience of the technology made it easy for Jennifer to check in with her therapist on her own schedule.
“I really, really like it,” Jennifer says. “Being about an hour from the VA could require me to take a lot of time off work. … Instead of driving, I can go to my house and use my computer and we do video chat.”
The ability to talk to her therapist from the comfort of her home has helped make Jennifer’s therapy sessions more accessible, especially when something comes up, like feeling under the weather. “With the telehealth, I won’t cancel a VA appointment for counseling now because I can do it by video,” she says.
Jennifer does talk therapy twice a month and has discovered a new passion for working out at the gym. Combined with medication, therapy and exercise have helped improve her outlook on life.
“I can see a future,” she says. “And I can see where reaching out to friends and family helps.”