AMITA Health Behavioral Health Hospital: Virtual Reality Offers Hope for Veterans

HOFFMAN ESTATES, IL--(Marketwired - Nov 9, 2015) -


  • 'Virtual Iraq' is a wartime simulator that helps returning veterans successfully cope with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Veterans such as Don L. have used the technology to more peacefully return to a healthy lifestyle.
  • Military experts will discuss a myriad of services and solutions for veterans and their families at an upcoming Chicago-area conference.

Warriors returning home is a time of joy, relief and hope for family and loved ones. But for many returning heroes, it's a time of struggle and despair -- not just immediately, but for years to come.

"The mindset that keeps you alive in battle might be socially and behaviorally hazardous at home," said Col. Jeffrey Yarvis, Ph.D., a published social worker and military scholar in the field of psychological trauma for more than 25 years.

With the right support, such as AMITA Health Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital's 'Virtual Iraq,' our heroes can get the help they need. Statistics for struggling veterans are daunting with high percentages of PTSD, brain injury and suicide.1,2

That's why, for more than five years, AMITA Health Behavioral Health Hospital has helped veterans cope with PTSD utilizing a wartime simulator. 'Virtual Iraq' is state-of-the-art technology that enables veterans with PTSD to receive specialized treatment by simulating wartime experiences. By incorporating the sights, sounds, and smells from a soldier's actual experience, the technology allows him or her to be gradually and safely exposed to some of the traumatic events experienced as a soldier, providing a supportive environment for learning how to tolerate and manage triggers.

"Exposure and Response Prevention (ERP) is the best treatment available for PTSD and anxiety disorders," said Dr. Patrick McGrath, Director of the Center for Anxiety and OCD at AMITA Health Behavioral Health Hospital.

Unfortunately, many veterans don't seek help. Many refer to their PTSD symptoms as readjustment problems, and fear that asking for help could negatively label them or end their careers.

"But that's not the case," said Dr. McGrath. "There are great outcomes. There is a ton of data to show that it's the gold standard. It's the treatment of choice."

'Virtual Iraq' was successfully incorporated into the PTSD treatment for Retired U.S. Marine Don L. "Dr. McGrath knew how much to do and how far to go," Don reported. "He helped me identify triggers and coping mechanisms which really brought down the anger because that was really the tipping point. I would recommend this treatment to other people."

On November 20, 2015, AMITA Health Behavioral Health Hospital and the Illinois Psychological Association Military Section will support our veterans by presenting "When Trauma Comes Home." The conference is a tribute to the military veterans and a call to action to assist with the many issues that face our returning warriors. Col. Yarvis will be the keynote speaker.

Dr. McGrath shared these 7 warning signs that indicate it's time to seek help:

1. Constant hypervigilance and "looking for something to go wrong"
2. Increase in anger/arguments even over very small things
3. Pulling away from family and friends
4. Emotional range limited from "neutral to rageful"
5. Shift in sleep cycle
6. Reactivity to sights, sounds, and smells that go beyond normal
7. Inability to "let your guard down"

About AMITA Health Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital, Hoffman Estates, IL
The eighth largest behavioral health provider in the nation, AMITA Health Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital offers comprehensive behavioral health services from prevention and early intervention to treatment and aftercare. Located northwest of Chicago, AMITA Health Behavioral Health Hospital offers both inpatient and outpatient services with a mission to help individuals of all ages learn practical ways to manage mental health and substance abuse problems. Highly sub-specialized programs and services include treatment for depression, anxiety, PTSD, addiction, eating disorders, and self-injury. For more information, please visit or call 855.383.2224.

1 Veterans Support Organization
2 Department of Veterans Affairs 2012 Suicide Data Report

Clinical Intake Advisors are available 24/7 at 855.383.2224.

Veterans Crisis Hotline: 800.273.8255

To view the multimedia release, click here:

Contact Information:

Contact Us:
Steve Hunter, LCSW, LMFT
Director, Business Development,
AMITA Health Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital, Hoffman Estates