Empathy from Bucknell professors led to trauma counseling

Commencement was an especially emotional day for Amy Yule Cameron ’99. Her mother had died a month earlier, and Cameron says she felt the overwhelming support of the faculty as she walked across the stage to receive her diploma.

“The image I have of Bucknell is a warm, enveloping, supportive place,” says Cameron, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and staff psychologist at the Providence Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC). “The faculty rallied around me,” says the biology major. “I think about how much I needed that, and that I didn’t know I needed it.”

She feels the same sense of community — and need — at the VAMC Trauma Recovery Services Clinic, where she is part of a team of psychologists treating post-9/11 combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I think of that moment in my work now, how many of the people I work with haven’t had the opportunity to be a part of an institution that wants nothing more than for them to succeed,” she says.

Readjusting to civilian life and reckoning with some of the horrific acts they saw while in combat are some of the biggest issues for soldiers returning home from a war zone. The related anxiety and stress can result in feelings of isolation that may lead to suicide.

Cameron recently developed an intensive outpatient program focusing on the individual. Sessions may include group discussions with other veterans or trips into the community to work through anxieties surrounding everyday tasks such as going to the supermarket or having lunch in a crowded restaurant.

“They’re young, and they have a lot of life to live, but they don’t know how to live that life,” she says. “Veterans, whether they know it or not, need us, and we want to do whatever we can to help them succeed.”