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Psychiatric convention to include many military-related sessions

Apr. 30, 2014 - 04:57PM   |  
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The nation’s top psychiatrists and psychology researchers will have a chance to delve into subjects like battlefield psychiatry, treating troops with mental health conditions and military culture at their upcoming annual meeting in New York City.

For the fourth straight year, the American Psychiatric Association conference will feature a military track with more than 65 workshops and poster sessions focusing on understanding, diagnosing and treating service members, veterans and family members with behavioral health conditions.

The aim is to expose civilian practitioners to the military experience, said Dr. Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, a retired Army colonel who now serves as chief medical officer at the Washington, D.C., Department of Behavioral Health.

“Last year, nearly all the workshops I did were standing room only. ... The attendees are very interested in personal experiences in the combat zone, women in the military and other personal stories,” Ritchie said.

While topics such as post-traumatic stress disorder and military suicide have garnered most of the attention at past meetings, Ritchie said this year’s focus is on treatments, including complimentary and alternative medicine, advances in care and the changing face of military psychiatry.

“The lessons learned are going to be important sessions. We’ve been at war 12, 13 years and there’s a lot that folks want to share about treating those with physical injuries, a head trauma and a psychological component,” Ritchie said.

Still, following mass murders from the 2009 shooting at Camp Liberty, Iraq, to the Washington Navy Yard killings last year and the Fort Hood shootings in April, workshops such as Violence in the American Soldier are likely to gain attention.

“There’s a bill in Congress that we should do mental health screening on soldiers before they come in, with some belief that will predict events 10 years later. I don’t think it will and I’ll discuss that as part of that talk,” Ritchie said.

The meeting will take place Saturday through next Wednesday at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York as well as hotel convention rooms across midtown Manhattan.

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