Suicide In The Military – Family That Is
The numbers are shocking — service members and veterans suicide numbers are climbing — we all know that. We’ve all seen the articles and the numbers in the Washington Post , the LA Times, On NPR, USA Today ; and on CNN.
There have been hearings in Congress, conferences dedicated to finding the reasons and finding treatments. The Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the JCS and the Joint Chiefs have discussed, written, made speeches about it. The topic of suicide in the military has been front page news. Veterans groups are rallying around their vets and the VA has new programs, telephone lines and counselors available.
Unfortunately, there is another epidemic of suicide, attempted suicide and depression that is happening in our community. Silently. Military spouses and family members are falling into that deep pit of depression: those who don’t come out, or those who come out dazed from over-prescribed medications; those who can’t take any more, both spouses and children who cannot handle what they are being asked to overcome.
As Deborah Mullen, the wife of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a powerful voice for military families – has said many times, we aren’t even being counted. She said in a speech in January 2010 that she was shocked that military family member suicides are not being counted. In a speech at the recent Military Health System Annual Conference, Mrs. Mullen talked about the fact that “…we are still discovering, still revealing, fissures and cracks in the family support system.”
This problem is being brought to the attention of those in command, those on legislative committees and attendees at conferences. But I wonder how many whose families aren’t military or don’t know anyone in the military have any idea that this is happening. We in the community are pulling together, we are talking to each other, we are reaching out to each other. We are trying to educate each other that asking for help isn’t going to ruin our spouse’s career (yes, that is a huge fear) we are linking to every online website, phone line, counseling service to make sure we are getting help for each other.
Some groups are rallying around, the always marvelous Give an Hour , Military One Source and their telephone counseling line , but there are still huge gaps and cracks. We have too many family members falling through those cracks.
Author and military family advocate Stacy Bannerman (When the War Came Home) has pulled together vignettes written by military spouses to illustrate the mental health issues connected with being in a military family. This original piece is designed to bridge the knowledge gap, to help civilians understand what military spouses really go through; not only during deployment, but during the stressful times before deployment, after their soldier comes home, keeping a family together during the constant moving and changes.
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