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Stress and the Military Family

September 22, 2009

A recent article on has a definitely personal feeling for me right now. The last couple of weeks have been very stressful for more than a few of the authors of LeftFace. Two of us are battling with realtors, short sales, mortgage companies and buyers who are determined to drive us completely round the bend; and both of us have deployed husbands. One has had a family tragedy, a few of us are making decisions about jobs, careers and figure out the great mystery of where we might be going next!

Then I read Rosemary Freitas Williams’ article ” War’s Silent Stress: Healing The Military Family The information about the spike in suicides and the studies was interesting, but then she mentioned that

For a nation that has been at war since 2001, there are few studies on the effects multiple wartime deployments have on military spouses and their children.


My question is: why? we keep being told that we are so important to the military, that the military recruits the soldier, but retains the family… so why hasn’t anyone taken the initiative to look at what these multiple deployments, short dwell times, and uncertainty are doing to the families?

Rosemary brings up a point that needs to be reinforced:

Unlike the military, spouses are not trained to detect symptoms of depression, burn-out or what another generation called “combat fatigue” – either in themselves or in each other. Secondary post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a term that is beginning to reemerge….

We’ve discussed this before, the need to be “super milspouse”, keep a stiff upper lip, keep our chins up and smile smile smile while farting rainbows and fairy dust. So unless we are lucky enough to have good friends who have been there, or who are there… that “don’t complain”, don’t let the side down mentality means that we’ll just “suck it up”. Military OneSource is a fantastic resource, and it always amazes me when I hear from some of our milspouse friends that they didn’t know that this counseling was available.

Rosemary discusses that

There are teams of Military Family Life Consultants funded by the Department of Defense who are available to all services and they provide counseling to service members and their families, without chain of command notification or paperwork. When the Army begins its intensive emotional resiliency training in October, families are invited. These programs are all positive steps in addressing this issue which threatens the bedrock of our deployed military–the families. Most existing programs focus on identification and treatment after the fact. What is needed is a set of tools and programs to prevent stress disorder for the family before they happen.

emphasis added by me.

That last sentence NAILED it for me. I don’t have small children at home, and I’m in awe of those spouses of deployment who are also trying to deal with how their children are adapting to this situation. We need to have a support network in place for these families before they get to that point, the point of needing to be “rescued”. Sometimes we hope that the FRG will do it, we hope that a wives club or a church group will be enough; but when they aren’t – the families deserve support, they deserve to be considered.

Until a whole family approach is taken to understand the full scope and impact of secondary PTSD, it will remain a problem that will undercut force readiness.

It’s a family problem – so we need a family solution. Every member of the family is impacted by deployment, every member of the family should be considered when decisions are being made concerning support, counseling, and their future.

**Quotes used by permission of the Author.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 23, 2009 12:15 pm

    Well, even in the family I’m finding we all have our ways of dealing with the stress. Though truthfully, there was far more stress when their Dad had his practice –he was never here, and the practice pretty much threw us into debt to which we are still paying.

    So relatively, this is a different kind of stress. That was stress..this is stress-awful, for lack of better term.
    My son plays video games, looks for jobs, and watches really stupid stuff on TV. Daughter is quiet, and reads up in her room. I go to yoga and meditate and write. There are times when it seems like we’re just roomies with completely separate lives. So I don’t push it. We have dinner, we talk, we try not to get in each other’s faces. We go out once a week as a group. We eat chocolate. We talk about Savannah, our move, and we think about getting another cat.

    When I interviewed Eric Walrabenstein last week, he mentioned his stress reduction program was going to have a version just for families. I think it will be great.

  2. Hagenmary permalink
    September 23, 2009 12:46 pm

    Stress? What stress?!
    I’ve been thinking that it’s like a nightmare. You’re helpless and horrible things happen and everything is surreal and beyond your control. That’s how every day feels to me lately. The economy, the war, the ice caps melting, swine flu, the war, the war, the war!!
    I’m proud of my son, don’t get me wrong. I’m proud of all of the troops who are spending years of their lives away from home & hearth. But the world keeps turning and nothing gets better. Mad men are in charge of countries; the hateful and evil are calling the shots.
    As Mary Travers sang…”When will they ever learn?”

  3. September 23, 2009 2:54 pm

    i’m definitely feeling the empty rhetoric right now. all the talk of community and family and whatever you need while he is away seems like just that: talk. it is very easy to feel forgotten when the rest of your husband’s squadron is still here. also, i was unaware military onespouse. i will check it out. thanks.

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