VA doctor shares PTSD expertise at World Health Organization conference

Dr. Diane Castillo speaks on therapies for disaster-related mental illness



VA clinical psychologist Dr. Diane Castillo was a speaker at the World Health Organization Expert Group Meeting on Mental Well-being, Disability and Humanitarian Action in Manila, Philippines, in January. Castillo is the treatment core center director at VA’s VISN 17 Center of Excellence for Research on Returning War Veterans based in Waco, Texas. She was asked to speak at the World Health Organization (WHO) meeting about alleviating PTSD after disasters and emergencies.

“The VA has been the leader in understanding post traumatic stress disorder within the United States, but we’re also recognized worldwide as being able to offer information to the world on what kinds of treatments are effective and available and how these treatments can speak to disaster relief,” Castillo explained. “My invitation was to be able to provide that information on evidence-based therapies for PTSD and how individuals dealing with disasters throughout the world could benefit from that.”

Some 15 representatives from academic institutions, United Nations’ agencies, governmental and non-governmental organizations were invited in their individual capacity to participate in the meeting. The National Center for Neurology and Psychiatry in Japan, the University of Tokyo and the Tohoku University, in close collaboration with the World Health Organization Regional Office for the Western Pacific and the United Nations University, organized meeting.

According to the WHO, it is estimated globally that one out of four people will experience a mental health condition during their lifetime. In disaster and humanitarian settings, affected populations frequently experience immense mental and psychosocial suffering. Although most people are capable of coping with life’s challenges, mental health and psychosocial support need to be made available for those who require it to support their recovery.


Editor’s note: The video above was produced by Temple, Texas, VA Medical Center videographers Stefan Green and Dean Clark. VISN 17 Public Affairs Officer Kathryn Gifford interviewed Dr. Castillo upon her return from the WHO conference.

Author

Ken McKinnon

Ken McKinnon is the video team leader on VA’s Digital Media Engagement team. He has a 45-year career in journalism and government service, 13 years with Florida newspapers, 10 as a press and communications director on Capitol Hill, and 22 with the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs. He is the proud son of a career Marine Master Sergeant who served in World War II and the Korean War.

Comments

  1. Bess Gamble-Williams    

    We STILL need HELP in Texarkana USA for veterans. Two people cannot handle the workload for two state lines. Impossible.

  2. Netta "Jeannine" DiCristina, LCSW    

    I lived durning the Vietnam War. Many of my friends went to Vietnam. Most returned but some did not. I am a female so I wasn’t drafted.
    However, after dropping out of Jr. High School I passed the GED. I continued to presume my education. I attended night classes for 20 years while raising my son. He’s now 42 and has his own family.
    I would love to serve our Veterans. I am a LICENSED CLINICAL SOCIAL WORKER. I HAVE AN ASSOCIATE DEGREE IN SUBSTANCE ABUSE COUNSELING, BACHELOR DEGREE FROM UNO AND A MASTER’S DEGREE IN SOCIAL WORK FROM TULANE UNIVERSITY. I AM ALSO A RECOVERING ALCOHOLIC SINCE 1989.
    PLEASE CALL ON ME IF I CAN HELP OUR VETERANS IN ANY WAY. I’VE ALSO BEEN TRAINED IN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE BY THE DULUTH PROJECT FOR MEN WHO BATTER. I’M AGE 65 AND I NEED TO RETURN TO WORK BY JULY 1, 2016. THERE IS NOTHING I WOULDN’T DO TO ASSIST OUR VETERANS.
    MY PHONE # 504-669-4301.
    BLESS ALL THAT YOU DO.

  3. James    

    I too have PTS, I do not call it a disorder but a temporary situation from experiences in combat; I too have and still am seeing a VA counselor who is getting me straightened out, no drugs just good ole fashion venting and working out issues. The counselor is good, real good; my experiences are over 30 years old and was in denial I had a problem, it was everybody else who was messed up; my wife had enough and threatened to leave unless I got help, if she had not done so I would still be by myself, blaming the world for the things I am going through; yes I still have issues with sleep and communication with others, personal security, attending events of large crowds of others; unless they are Veterans? I hold down a full time job, that too in assisting Veterans, my medications only consist of medical injury meds not mental; every time I read about the side effects I refuse to take them. I still have issues and know I always will just learning to adjust how I handle them. It is not about the compensation but about learning to relate to others and how to deal with the nightmares, reoccurrences, anger outbursts, completing more than one mission in my life at the same time. They are help through the VA and not all counselors are collecting pay checks only, mine is caring and very helpful. I am talking causually with my wife now, do we argue yes but that is part of life, do I lash out at times yes but try to control the outbursts, could talk about my concerns all day but thought I would voice some positivity that I have dealth with with VA.

  4. mike    

    VA is overwhelmed Too many promises and not enough results.

  5. robert mccrory    

    VA,,, Your chemicals drugs are destroying lives,,, Get off your little political high horse and do what works,, More of us die from your pathetic so called cure than by bullets,, Your only prolonging our suffering, marijuana is all that works for me, ask any vet their opinion of your treatment plans,, You’ll get a big Lol

  6. Dave Dongieux    

    I would like to contact the Dr. Who spoke @ WHO & send her info on EHT. I would hope she’s already seen the studies on it, but not positive. I am not a Dr
    nor a veteran, there is not enough space for a thorough explanation, but EHT is a natural supplement that had been in R&D for over 20 years at Dr Jeffrey Stock’s lab @ Princeton. It shows great promise in helping neuronal networking in the brain & other improvements. I cannot make claims nor do I feel it right to solicit on a site like this. I will look into finding her contact info. For a brief view of what we feel a very promising help for those dealing with PTSD or other cognitive challenges watch this short video: http://www.superiorbrainhealth.com

  7. RICHARD ROSAS    

    Im a LEBANON/GRENADA COMBAT VET. first on last off triage when BLT barracks was leveled by terrorists in BEIRUT LEBANON 1983. after bombing I was first on 50cal melting a barrell and couldn’t be pulled off. when i returned to so cal i was off charts! id run into highway traffic getting hit and rolling over car, ide jump in front of buses and climb and sit atop telephone poles till fire dept came get me down. at which time ide scale cable to next pole! i be marching in middle of street full cadence at 2am. walking thru plate glass windows and fighting with minimum 3 -24 guys by myself. dont get me wrong hell yeah i got my but whooped but i also did whooping! I tried getting SSI figured i already worked 80 credits TWICE needed to retire but 10 years later nothing! (some 20 year old girl went before judge broken leg and got approved!!!)every time i tried get VA to help me they would say im just releasing tension! i was found unemployable years ago by unemployment agency thus i opened and lost my company 4 times and couldn’t anymore. also.gave up on VA . im now diagnosed with PTSD PSYCHOSIS SCHIZOPHRENIA AND BIPOLAR. I also have SEVERE DEGENERATIVE DISK and EXTREME DEGENERATIVE SPINE DISEASE TUMOR IN KIDNEYS AND LIVER CARPAL TUNNEL MEMORY LOSS MOST ALL TEETH FELL OUT BARELY EAT! my wife me and 2 children live off my wife’s 1200 month income of which 1030 is for rent! due to always late owner wants us to move out now.WANTS ONLY COMBAT VETERAN FOR MILES AROUND TO MOVE OUT BUT OH NO NOT DOPERS THEY PAY THEIR RENT ONTIME KICK VET OUT!!VA never even attempted to assist! STATE MENTAL HEALTH HELPS ME AND I THANK THEM!! only one who sent letters out was PRESIDENT OBAMA!! Yes you hear correctly! President been fighting republicans tooth and nail to get VET PACKAGES Approved. they call me CRAZY RICHARD so if you see me on news you all know i didnt draw first blood i waited till they dumped us in park and then did what i gota do to keep my kin folk safe. I include all you vets are my kin folk too!!

  8. Timothy George Wilson, Jr.    

    I experienced PTSD and Severe depression from my service in the United States Army.
    On a flight to REFORGER 86 with the United States Army Reserve on a C141, the plane lost its avionics and started descending. There was great tension as the plane starting falling out of the sky. Also, while stationed in South Korea my company was going up a mountain path with a 1,000 foot drop. The 2 half ton truck was going up a narrow mountain path. The truck almost went off the path over the side of the road. At 17 years old these two events have haunted me for 38 years. I have been trying for 9 years to get compensation for severe depression and PTSD. Good luck to everyone else.

  9. Fred Kelley    

    As I read these replies, I can relate to all of them. I was another Sabastian Green! I am not “cured” but I have been “educated” to understand why I feel and do those things, and what I can do to eliminate them from my life.It is interesting to see because I was infantry in Viet Nam in 1970. The VA has given me choices for my next step in recovery. None are drugs. Because of the therapy, I have alot of options, I must do.The bottles of drugs I was given by a non-VA doctor set on a shelf unused. I now know what to do and when to do it. I owe my life to 3- VA doctors.
    I do see there is a huge difference between VA Hospitals. All I can say is I would not be alive today if those 3 Doctors didn’t understand PTSD.
    I only wish it happened sooner in my life!
    My heart has stopped pounding, I am still in avoidance of many daily things, but I am understanding what to do.

  10. david j. ybarra    

    first i’d like to state, my 1st experience w/ counseling was in 1980 , the non profit was called “flower of the dragon in cotati ca. then i had massive issues related to my combat. back then they produced a flyer titled ” CPTSD” I’d like the VA to reinstate that title , instead of just using PTSD, as we all know our veterans, experiences w/ combat , created our issue w/ CPTSD! change to combat ptsd as we all there are many different forms of PTSD, i.e., sexual abuse, deadly automobile accidents, etc ours again is related to out combat experiences! onward!

  11. Sebastian C. Green    

    I am a Dessert Shield/Dessert Storm vet. And I too am going thru what you other people are describing. For over 25 yrs. the VA had been denying me benefits for PTSD and also injuries sustained in service. I was finally awarded 60% in 2011, but I had to leave NY to get it. Seems like they don’t award you anything in the Big Apple. Now back in 1993 I went to the VA to get evaluated for PTSD and was told I had it, I went to outpatient treatment at Ft. Hamilton in Brooklyn, NY. At the time I was involved in a legal case, so my attorney told me I should get check out for PTSD, I never even knew there was a illness called such a thing. The Army never told us about it. I was railroaded into a field grade Art.15 after returning from the war. They should have evaluated me back then in 1991 for PTSD.
    The VA I believe are told by the government to deny claims, and push drugs by the government. I have a heart condition now as the other two individuals wrote, in which I never had before, and now all of a sudden allergies. I can’t be in crowds unless I’m drunk, can’t go to the beach flash backs, hate load noises and sudden movements from people, I don’t people around me period. Just yesterday I got on the bus I started felling sick, got dizzy, a headache, I wanted to through up. I guess it was my nerves. All my relationships failed because of PTSD,
    Now I’m trying a private hospital. The VA is garbage. The other day they asked me to a survey about my benefits hearing. The podiatrist asked me some questions then told me to stand at the doorway and walk to the wall directly in front of me and back plus squat down. What type of exam is that? The psychologist for the PTSD just asked some basic questions and the told me he doesn’t make the ruling on my case the VA does. I never asked him that question. Did he already feel guilty?

  12. Daniel Degginger    

    Moderation is only required by PC individuals that find it easier to demand moderation rather than utilize their limited talents to help. Obviously you do not need my comments. After all I only fought for my right of free speech. Interesting that I lost my rights protecting yours.

  13. Daniel Degginger    

    After spending an hour composing my thoughts on PTSD, your captcha did not let it go through. You have the info see if you can find it and publish it. Maybe you will learn something about PTSD. The uneducated doctor you were pushing might learn something.

  14. Anthony Stovall    

    Wow! I just started reading about you vets with the same problem that I have. Heart beating out of my chest my hands and my jaw go numb and I get panic thinking I’m having a heart attack! I went to a private psychiatrist and they diagnosed me with PTSD. I was given medication but the benzo’s they gave me were worse than the illness! I was finally given A 70% service connected disability. But for the past 35 years I’ve had so many problems with untreated PTSD that I am totally unemployable. I filed for unemployability but they denied me despite not having worked since 2009. The psych department at the VA tried every drug known to man on me and when that didn’t work they basically made me feel like the whole thing was my fault! That I was just antisocial or a sociopath. The VA in Shreveport Louisiana has failed me miserably.

  15. Rory Robert Jones    

    I also suffer from MST-PTSD.
    Since it happened back in the military in 1971.
    My life was threatened if I told anyone or reported it.
    At 18 , you take that seriously and I buried it deep in my mind for years.
    It resurfaced and I thought it was not real.
    They decided that it was a real situation.
    Started my counselor and such.
    I had a rate review in 2005.
    Oddly enough they lost my records.
    Wanted to postpone it. I said I won’t wait for another year.
    She did the interview with no paperwork to go by.
    In short. …..she made it as if I was lying to her about the situations.
    So what did she do.
    Rated 30 % for anger issues. Not the MST-PTSD! !!
    I have relapses from it. And I keep getting more medication.
    Lol
    This year and parts of last year, I fell into manic clinical deep depression. Given so many medicines that I almost odidn’t .
    Couldn’t leave the house with out panic attacks. Cut off the family and friends period.
    Came to the point where I wanted to die.
    Checking into the Va hospital.
    Spent three days.
    I just did a cpretty interview with the Va.
    Also went to see the DAV Representative after the cp.
    When she saw the paperwork, she was stunned by how much was there.
    She said that she feels that I should have been given a much higher rating.
    So far I have put in through the cp exam for an increase in compensation.
    When the paperwork for my Cp exam came. All it said was case closed and granted.
    Can’t find out what it means.
    So now both claims are filled. I know that the DAV Representative did.
    Not sure about the cp exam paperwork.
    Feels like it will never get resolved.
    I am waiting for the answer.

  16. Fred Kelley    

    I guess it depends on where you are located, and how a person realizes he or she has PTSD. After 45 years of stumbling thru life, doing wrong things, and acting “different”, I realized, I was the problem and not everyone else. When I retired, It finally came to me that I have serious problems! After going to my regular Doctor, and doing numerous tests, I made the decision to go to a VA Clinic. Immediately they told me it was PTSD and set up Therapy sessions at the Bath, NY VA. It was a struggle for me to go each week! The Psychologist I saw really got to me! After the 3rd session I told her she was describing to me, my life history! In the 16 weeks of therapy, I was taught many ways to get me thru life and to retrain my thoughts and beliefs. The last thing she wanted, was for me to take medicine, (which I am paranoid about) I still struggle each day, but I know I can have a life.

  17. Frank Cannella    

    The only medication I have ever found that works for PTSD is a combination Carbamazepine, Prozac, and Librium from the VA and Medical Marijuana when needed.

    Medical Marijuana~! It really helps. I’m a legitimate medical user and I have a state issued medical green card. I do not use it for pleasure.

    PTSD has no treatment. It sticks to you like the Kiss of Death many years since the war and still sick with the ailment. It’s an act of God that I’m even alive. Thank you VA for keeping me alive and your medical help. If it were not for the VA I would be dead long ago.

    Special thanks to: Dr. J. Allison and Dr. M. Bradly. two top physicians at the local VA — Thank You~!

  18. ADOR QUINTO    

    I HAVE THE SAME SITUATION I TAKING METOPROLOL FROM RAPID HEARTBEAT AND THEY SAID IT IS NOT PART OF CLAIM AND I KNOW FOR SURE IT IS CONNECTED TO PTSD, HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE AND SOME OTHER. I THINK THEY HAVE TO UNDERSTAND OUR LIFE IS NOT THE SAME AGAIN WE MIGHT BE GONE EARLIER THAN WE EXPECTED BUT THEY SHOULD GIVE US THE BENEFITS NOW THAN GIVING SOME PORTION TO OUR FAMILY LATER.

  19. DEBORAH GUTHRIE    

    TRULY THIS ‘VA’ SYSTEM SUCKS!!!!!!!!!!! MY SON HAS BEEN ‘DOPED’ FOR YRS THEN IF HE DOESNT TAKE THE CRAP THEY GIVE HIM-THEY SAY HE ISNT ‘DISABLED’??????? THERE ISNT ANY PLACE WITHIN 100 MILES OF WHERE HE IS & HATES GOING INTO BIG CITIES FOR HELP- BUT KNOWS HE NEEDS HELP!!!!!!! IM SICK OF THIS GOVMNT’S WAY OF ‘TAKING CARE OF OUR VETS’ CUZ THEY DONT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THE PRIVATE SECTOR -US- DO MORE THAN THIS GOVMT DOES!!!!!!!

  20. Jesse Joseph Realmo    

    >>>>>>BEING A OLDER VETERAN FROM THE VIETNAM ERA, I AM ALWAYS CONFRONTED BY OTHER VETS ASKING ABOUT THE VA MENTAL HEALTH FACILITY & WHETHER IT’S BENEFICIAL FOR THEM TO USE WHAT THEY OFFER ~ I TELL TO STEER CLEAR FOR ALL THEY DO IS MEDICATE.

    I ALSO TELL TO GO THRU ~ UNITED WAY FAMILY SERVICES FAMILY & INDIVIDUAL COUNSELING. SINCE YOUR PROBLEM IS INDIVIDUAL, STAY AWAY ANY & ALL GROUP THERAPY.

    THE VA HAS FAILED MISERABLY ON ALL LEVELS ON HELPING VETERANS SUFFERING FROM PTSD.

    FOR THE PAST 10-YRS. OR SO, I HAVE BEEN ON MEDICATION FOR A HEART CONDITION IN RELATION TO MY PTSD. IT HAS BEEN FOUND THAT OLDER VETS WHO ARE SUFFERING FROM PTSD WILL DEVELOP THIS CONDITION – WHERE YOUR HEART WILL START BEATING FASTER.

    THIS IS NOT A SERVICE CONNECTED DISABILITY YET, BUT I BELIEVE THE VA HOSPITAL IS FULLY AWARE THAT THIS IS COMING. I’VE HAD 3 DOCTORS WHO CONTINUE TO PRESCRIBE ~METOPROLOL TARTRATE THAT I NEED TO TAKE TWICE A DAY TO SLOW DOWN MY HEART. YET THEY REFUSE TO PUT THIS FACT IN MY MEDICAL RECORDS EVEN TO THIS DAY – THEY ARE SCARED!!!!!!!!

    1. DEBORAH GUTHRIE    

      Dear Jesse Realmo, First THANK U FOR YR SERVICE!!!!!! <3 My son has this same issue you are talking about now- at 39!!!!!!!!!!! The crap they give is prozac/paxil & 100 other dope- & anything else they can think of & still his heart is beating out of his chest! has panic attacks, cant be around people too long-if much at all- i Feel for u & others in this situation- the ONLY HELP provided to my son thru this WHOLE fkn nitemare is 'tooth cleaning & other dental' care & thats it!!!!!!!!!! He is now paying 'out of pocket' for a dr. to help him mentally. THIS SYSTEM HAS FAILED US & I DONT SEE IT GETTING ANY BETTER- GO GIVE YR LIFE & YOUR BRAIN FOR YR COUNTRY & WELCOME HOME- NOW JUST GO AWAY!!!!!!!! THAT'S THE WAY IT IS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! BLESSINGS BROTHER- IM FROM THE SAME ERA AS U & LOST SOME FRIENDS OVER THERE & ALOT CAME HOME DIFFERENT PEOPLE INCLUDING MY BROTHER!

  21. Laura Myers    

    How are you getting real psychiatric care & help to those veterans who need it but don’t know or don’t think they need it. My husband saw a “counselor” in great falls, MT , who told him to get a divorce because he fought with me all the time & has been mentally and physically abusive to me for years. He neglects taking meds, has paranoid schizophrenic tendencies & he says there are No psych drs in great falls.

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