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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Farr's Mission: Better Tools, Law Enforcement Response to Returning Veterans in Crisis

Every day, people all across the country do solid work to help veterans successfully transition from combat to civilian life. Every effort has meaning. Every person donates uniquely to the pool. Today, I'd like to introduce you to one of these individuals: Darin C. Farr of the Utah Department of Veterans Affairs.

Clearly gifted and passionate about his work, Farr assists veterans on a local level [for example, a StoryCorps interview conducted by Farr with a former soldier who served in the Iraq War was recently broadcast on KCPW] and he also extends his knowledge and talents far and wide via his timely and well-crafted media productions.

In a summer post, I mentioned The Walking Wounded Are Coming Home, Farr's first video. Made for law enforcement officers, it showed how their understanding and response to incidents involving returning veterans in crisis can greatly impact outcomes. Farr's next feature, Transmission on Transition, further explored combat PTSD and traumatic brain injury, or TBI, and is geared toward military families.

I've also learned that it's been nominated for a Peabody Award.

The strength of both programs is in their substance, of course; but, they excel both visually and dramatically as well. Currently being shown in training/educational programs conducted by the Utah VA, Farr has also uploaded each feature online. You'll find both programs and a brief review of each in extended. Good work, Utah VA!

In educational interest, article(s) quoted from extensively.

The Walking Wounded Are Coming Home

Walking Wounded is meant to 1) educate law enforcement individuals on how their presence my unduly threaten and trigger hypervigilence and other PTSD-associated symptoms in returning veterans, and 2) law enforcement's power to defuse these encounters by acknowledging and attempting to reduce the veteran's anxiety, thereby increasing the likelihood of securing a positive outcome for both officer and individual.

The film opens with a dramatization of soldiers on a mission (presumably in Iraq) coming under fire. A battle buddy is lost. Viewers are then introduced to combat trauma and PTSD through interviews conducted by a number of psychologists, suicide prevention coordinators and other VA, Vet Center and PTSD Clinic officials. Later in the program, we again meet one of the opening scene's soldiers. This time, he is spiraling out of control, flashing back to the attack.

The program shows viewers how a dangerous situation -- such as the suicide-by-cop scenario they present -- can have very different outcomes depending on how everyone involved handles the event. On the part of responding officers, the tone and skill of their response is critical. Education, the very reason for this film's production, is the key component in honing that response and securing the best outcome possible.

One thing is certain: Not only should a city's crisis intervention teams be trained to deal with these types of eventualities, all law enforcement officers should have access to these crisis response tools. Walking Wounded is a good addition to any community's law enforcement training program.

Mission: Transmission on Transition

Written and directed by Farr, Transmission was made with returning veterans and military families in mind. Offering information on PTSD and TBI, phone numbers and website addresses of some of the many available reintegration resources are interspersed throughout.

As in Walking Wounded, Transmission skillfully weaves together interviews with professionals along with various dramatized situations that veterans -- both male and female -- experience during the course of their deployment and reintegration.

Opening the feature, we find ourselves traveling with a group of soldiers on a convoy mission. They are talking about what they will do when they get back home, their dreams of returning to college, etc. A roadside bomb explodes.

In the next scene, we see a couple driving in a car casually talking. The driver, the same soldier who was driving the Humvee earlier, sees something in the road and flashes back to the attack. He starts driving evasively, swerving into traffic, and is pulled over by a police officer. He is clearly embarrassed and agitated.

There are two other scenarios presented.

One looks at a female veteran's experience of applying for a civilian job after her deployment, and the frustration of having to deal with an uneducated Human Resources department. The other dramatization follows another returning soldier and his experience in college as he struggles to understand why he is having such a hard time concentrating and remembering things.

The video closes with a look at improvements being made by the VA and a welcome by the Salt Lake City VA Medical Center.

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