Charleston leading the way in PTSD research - WCBD-TV: News, Weather, and Sports for Charleston, SC

Charleston leading the way in PTSD research

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Inside the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston, SC. Inside the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston, SC.
WCBD - Over the past decade the mental health issue has become too big to ignore. The latest numbers show 22-veterans commit suicide every single day.  Soon Charleston's Ralph H. Johnson, VA Medical Center, will be doing their groundbreaking treatment inside a 16-thousand square foot, PTSD Mental Health Research building.

Dr. Peter Turek is one of those leading the PTSD effort, where an academic approach and the sharing of ideas are a big part of the process. He says it has made Charleston the standard-bearer in PTSD treatment.

“One of the things that we do great here at Ralph H. Johnson in general in Charleston more broadly is treat PTSD; study PTSD.”

For many years the approach to the, military’s mental health, lacked empathy and understanding, stalling efforts to properly address the issue. Now things have changed and a collective open mind has opened new doors in treatment for veterans. What’s so different?

The difference is the willingness to accept new ideas and share what is gained, as well as guiding a patient through the process with proof that it works, no secrets just results. Dr. Turek says the tangible information can stop discouraged patients from dropping out.

“Here is the graph the first time you talked about this you were way up here and now we’re only talking about this the second time and we’re down here. It can kind of engender that hope earlier on in the treatment process.”

Determining the severity of a patient’s PTSD from one doctor visit to the next is where new technology is most useful. While showing a graph on his tablet, Turek says they gather hard data from the smallest amount of sweat in a person’s hand.

“We have these teeny-little sweat glands these are not our normal ones, kind of a different set but they flood very quickly. It’s a signal we can measure electronically so we can kind of plug sensors into somebody’s I-phone with a free APP and they can then see how they are doing.”

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