Photo Credit: Courtesy of the University of Southern California's Institute of Creative Technologies
A local child waves to the convoy in Virtual Iraq.
Reaching across stigma to a younger crowd:
Mental health therapists hope that Virtual Iraq's similarity to video games will help draw younger traumatized troops to the treatment.
"They may be more likely to seek care like this than just going and talking," said Dr. Beth Davis, a deployment behavioral psychologist at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., one of eight stateside Air Force installations that started using Virtual Iraq this year.
Still, stigma remains a primary adversary in treating post-traumatic stress disorder, according to Dr. Barbara Rothbaum, a virtual reality therapy pioneer and director of Emory University's Trauma and Anxiety Research Program.
"Some people in the military don't want the stigma," she said. "I've had people tell me it makes them look weak."
Piled on top of all that is the notion that mental health therapy is not what a strong soldier should need.
"They were good and they were strong and it isn't a sign of weakness," Rothbaum said. "They go into the hospital for a physical injury and that's not a sign of weakness. We know these are all the wounds of war."