In 2006, Congress mandated the U.S. Department of Defense to develop an online resource addressing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health conditions commonly occurring after a deployment. A recent Institute of Medicine (IOM) study found that 13 to 20 percent of the 2.6 million service members deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan since 2001 may suffer from PTSD. The IOM noted that only slightly more than half of those diagnosed with PTSD actually received treatment. This “treatment gap” was viewed to be the result of three factors: stigma, difficulty accessing care and health care workers not suitably trained to treat PTSD. The need is clear.
To meet this need, the Defense Department’s National Center for Telehealth & Technology (T2) developed, and maintains, AfterDeployment (AD). The website was designed to work as a self-care solution. While the general congressional mandate was to focus on the period after deployment, the content, crafted to provide topical comprehensiveness, evolved to more broadly cover the entire deployment spectrum, from pre-deployment through deployment to redeployment. Features were developed to provide an immersive, interactive experience. The material was aimed at a diverse population with the intention of normalizing adjustment problems following a deployment.
AD continues to evolve and gain recognition. In 2010 a “Provider Portal” was introduced to add support for health care professionals treating patients with behavioral health issues. The 2013 Interagency Task Force on Military and Veterans Mental Heath Interim Report recognized AD as a premiere DoD web-based psychological health care tool. As AD passes its 5th year anniversary milestone, exciting plans are underway that include expanding content and developing innovative design concepts to enhance user experience.