Moving Mental Health "Left of Bang"

Whenever there’s an incident involving deadly force in the military, a review is conducted afterward. Looking at the timeline of events leading up to the incident, reviewers try to figure out how they could have intervened earlier to prevent the event — in military slang, they want to know how they could have gotten “left of bang.”

“Bang” refers to when an incident occurs — when shots are fired or an attack begins. So on a timeline, “left of bang” occurs before the incident. We can also use this metaphor when we think about other areas of life, including mental health issues. The military considers mental health to be vital to both individual and unit readiness, and supports a preemptive approach. So how do leaders or health care providers figure out how to intervene before someone gets to the point of crisis in their life?

The National Center of Telehealth & Technology (T2) headquarters is located on Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State. T2 staff often find opportunities to educate line leaders and supervisors within the Army and the Air Force about T2 psychological health apps. Those leaders see their people day in and day out; most importantly, they will likely be the first to know when their soldier or airman is struggling with something. They can also be the first ones to help intervene, before things get too far along, to stay left of bang.

To date, T2 staff has educated hundreds of non-commissioned officers about T2 apps. We not only want to make them aware of our apps, we want them to become comfortable with them so they can recommend them with confidence to their people. After one group of airmen got a hands-on demonstration of several apps, their commander told them he liked the T2 apps because they’ve been out for years, so they’re tested and tried; they’re free; and they don’t require connectivity (while out in the field).

Apps like Breathe2Relax, LifeArmor and Virtual Hope Box make good additions to any leader’s toolkit to use in a crisis. By keeping an eye on the mental health of their subordinates, supervisors may be able to stop a problem before it gets too far along. With T2 apps, we can help them to stay left of bang.

David Cooper, Psy.D. is a psychologist and Mobile Applications Lead at the National Center for Telehealth & Technology (T2).

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Center for Telehealth & Technology, the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health & Traumatic Brain Injury, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.


Read other posts by Dr. David Cooper