A Boost for Soldiers’ Mental Health

ESG Elektroniksystem- und Logistik-GmbH

CHARLY is a multimedia training platform that supports the primary prevention of possible psychotraumata. CHARLY helps to increase mission forces’ stress resilience with the aim of reducing absences caused by stress and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD).

Absences caused by mental stress are increasing

Traumatic events can be experienced when on a mission. For example, so-called “Improvised Explosive Devices” (IEDs) and suicide bombers are a constant danger in mission areas. They are particularly perfidious, as they can create a threatening situation almost anywhere and thus cause general stress.

Often the Explosive Ordnance Division (EOD) is tasked with securing the dangerous area, defusing explosive devices and checking the terrain for further hidden dangers/explosive devices.

This includes safeguarding the remains of the IED, which can sometimes involve turning over and retrieving parts of corpses. As well as posing a threat to life or physical condition, such missions also create considerable mental stress. Cases of acute mental problems through to the development of a PTSD, with severe mental consequences that can also cause physical problems, are accumulating.

Charly: EOD Support

EOD Support from CHARLYTo protect soldiers better in future, ESG Elektroniksystem- und Logistik-GmbH recently presented a demonstrator of its psychosocial support and training platform “CHARLY for the EOD”. This was commissioned by the Psychological Service of the German Armed Forces as part of a study. The entire learning content is adapted specifically to a particular target group. CHARLY’s “script“ is therefore always tailored.

Practise stress situations in advance

Using the training platform, mission forces learn to recognise causes and symptoms of acute stress disorder. Methods and ways of coping are also imparted and practised. CHARLY helps soldiers to recognise and accept their own limits. At the same time, the platform improves leaders‘ understanding of work-related trauma.

The users are guided through the system by a virtual coach. Videos, photos and interactive formats are used to play through possible mission scenarios/crises in advance. The CHARLY user observes, evaluates, assigns, selects, makes decisions, tags information, categorises, changes arrangements, models and simulates, tests and expands his behavioural options.

Direct “biofeedback”, collected through the skin conductance, helps the user to become more aware of his stress and relaxation reactions. The platform also measures the results and documents user behaviour.

ESG is ready to develop CHARLY further for international use

CHARLY is being implemented in the EOD of the German Armed Forces. A version for the German military police is planned for 2010.

CHARLY is relevant for every armed force in operation to reduce the risk of PTSD for mission forces across the board. By adapting the training content to the individual mission scenarios of different troops, CHARLY can achieve success for a larger group of users. It would, for example, make sense for the pioneers to use CHARLY. Medical forces, who tend to terrible injuries during missions, as well as other special forces also come into consideration.

Last but not least, “normal patrol soldiers“ are also permanently in danger of directly experiencing shocking situations when on a mission. CHARLY can - appropriately individualised – become the training platform for all areas of application within the armed forces.

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