A Program for Strengthening Health and Improving Emotional Defenses (SHIELD)

Elkin-Frankston, S., Romero, V., and Wollocko, A.

To be presented at the 2015 Defense Energy Innovation Summit, Austin, TX (December 2015)

The psychological stress experienced by Marines has a profound impact on health and performance that reaches beyond the individual; it affects job performance, interactions with family and peers, and may lead to increased prevalence of substance abuse and misconduct. The DoD has devoted substantial resources to developing stress prevention and resilience programs to combat the effects of stress; however, there is limited evidence to justify the cost and scope of these programs. To maximize their effectiveness, the Marine Corps needs low-cost, evidence-based training options that integrate effectively with existing wellness programs. To provide this capability, we designed a portable psychological flexibility program for Strengthening Health and Improving Emotional Defenses (SHIELD). SHIELD is a comprehensive approach based on the latest evidence-based strategies from mindfulness-based stress reduction, cognitive behavioral stress management, relaxation response training, and yoga to train Marines to develop psychological flexibility and promote healthy responses to adverse and stressful events. The evidence-based SHIELD curriculum is supported through independent and group training sessions. A mobile application using biometric data collected from sensors embedded in smartphones, combined with content delivery and user feedback and evaluation, builds a composite of individual stress-levels to guide personalized training objectives.

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