- Posted March 10, 2013 by
Naval Officers Design IT Solution for Military Suicide
The highest U.S. military suicide rate on record occurred in 2012 with approximately one active duty military member committing suicide every day along with one veteran every hour. With the inspiration of Dr. Nancy Roberts at the Naval Postgraduate School, two Navy Mustang junior officers set out to identify the underlying cause of suicide in the US military and design an IT solution to help mitigate further occurrences. Armed only with pencils, paper and a rational assessment of existing studies and data, LT Darryl Diptee and LTJG Jason Baker created the new theory of Chronic Emotional Atrophy (CEA) that offers an explanation why people in the US military may become suicidal. They also designed an IT solution called “EVA” to help curb future episodes of suicidal ideation in the armed forces.
LT Diptee and LTJG Baker’s research paper entitled “Tackling Wicked Problems: Suicide in the US Military”will be published in the proceedings of the 10th International Conference on Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management (ISCRAM 2013), and also presented in Baden-Baden, Germany this May.
During their research, they noticed extreme similarity in the symptoms displayed by physically healthy military members who are suicidal and medical patients with frontal lobe damage to the brain. The brain’s frontal lobe is identified as an emotional epicenter which separates humans from lower species of animals. Medical patients with frontal lobe damage lose much of their ability to feel emotion and exhibit symptoms of: increased depression, apathy (indifference), drinking, risk taking and aggression, as well as social self-isolation and emotional numbness. Noticing that many members of the military also demonstrate these symptoms (particularly those who are suicidal), Diptee and Baker deduced that military members might be losing the emotional functionality of their frontal lobes due to severe underuse within the emotionally sanitized confines of the US military. Their proposed theory of Chronic Emotional Atrophy (CEA) asserts that suicidal ideation in the military is environmentally induced primarily due to an emotionally sterilized military culture which causes atrophy of the frontal lobe’s functionality.
CEA is thought to slowly strip away those most delicate human qualities: the ability to experience deeply embedded, secondary emotion. This leaves a person with a frontal lobe that basically doesn't work right, essentially emotionally numb. Recommendations to combat CEA include performing activities that promote frontal lobe stimulation (FLS)... activities that will help a person suffering from CEA regain their sense of being human again.
Frontal Lobe Stimulation (FLS) includes activities such as:
- writing or expressing personal feelings as poetry, in a journal, blog etc.
- painting/drawing emotions on paper or canvas
- forming/maintaining healthy, emotional bonds with others (friends, family, acquaintances, pets)
- talking openly about emotions with others in a non-judgmental arena
- participating in healthy group activities (walk in park, picnic, cafe), that build the bond of being part of a larger group (even if only 1 other person)
- group / individual meditation, clearing the mind of the "noise" and establishing oneself in "being".
To help fight the effects of CEA for deployed troops, they created the Emotional Vitality Assistant (EVA) model using a special design process developed by Stanford University. EVA is a web-based solution that is: 1) socially acceptable 2) technically feasible and 3) economically viable. Their proposed solution mitigates CEA by increasing stimulation of the frontal lobe via personal expression and virtual therapy. This psychiatric information technology solution fills many gaps in current military mental healthcare while offering benefits such as: therapeutic continuity and mobility, privacy, convenience and just-in-time therapy to name a few. EVA would host a global network of civilian therapists who would offer psychiatric sessions via video chat and voice communications. An EVA Smartphone application would allow military members to privately express their emotions “on the fly” with their therapists, which can later be discussed during scheduled therapy sessions.
LT Diptee and LTJG Baker hope to promote their theory of CEA and the EVA model in hopes of mitigating the elusive problem of suicide in the US Military. The research paper is on the public domain and freely accessible at http://www.darryldiptee.com/research.html