Virginia Veterans, families have new online PTSD, stress help - FOX 21/27 WFXR Roanoke/WWCW Lynchburg News, Weather

Virginia Veterans, families have new online PTSD, stress help

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A new program is being launched across the state to help families and veterans with common issues when they come back from deployment.

Thanks to a grant from the Virginia Department of Health, the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program is training people across the state about the Family of Heroes: an avatar-based resiliency and PTSD training program.

It's a free, confidential, online program where you can learn how to handle conversations on things like PTSD, spouse re-intergration and dependencies.

"There are a lot of issues when people come back from deployments as far as readjustment, returning to their families," said Dan Karnes, a retired Lt. Colonel and president of the Roanoke Valley Veterans Council.

"There may be symptoms of PTSD or combat stress, there may be substance abuse or some kind of other dependency disorders, and then there's the whole re-integration piece to where a service member may come home and there may be issues with a spouse or with children," said Matt Wade, the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program regional director.

The Virginia Wounded Warrior Program says 22 percent of service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan report symptoms of PTSD or depression, but only half seek treatment. They hope with a new online program, Kognito Family of Heroes, more people will get help. The free program is now available across Virginia.

Users interact with characters online. Each situation is different and mimics real life conversations. You pick what you say and the veteran reacts. There's also a coach to help families learn PTSD or dependency symptoms to look for and how to help calm the veteran down and de-escalate the situation.

"A lot of people come home from combat and really don't want to discuss some of the feelings that they're having or they may isolate within their families," said Wade.

"There are a lot of professional resources but nothing quite like this that I'm aware of," said Karnes. "I think it's interesting. It's helpful but I don't think it's a substitute for counseling, individual counseling or family counseling. I think it could be a helpful tool."