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Deployment stress – not just for soldiers* anymore!

February 14, 2011

*Yes, I know sailors, Marines, Airmen are serving – but that didn’t fit on the title.

There’s an NPR report on a new study – a study about stress in military spouses.   Here’s a Link.. go ahead and read it, I’ll wait. …. [whistling…]

Now then: for those of us who have been doing this for a long long time, we’re saying something like “oh, No Shit, Sherlock!”

For a decade, we’ve all been on a war footing, many of us have done multiple deployments, with the “dwell time” filled with training, TDYs, schools and oh, yeah… a PCS or two. We’ve watched our friends cry for hours; looked in the mirror at the shadows put by lack of sleep under our own eyes; realized that the woman in the FRG who has chewed her nails to the quick is losing her battle with depression; heard the terrible stories about the woman who hasn’t gotten out of bed in weeks and whose eleven year old child had to act as parent to the younger children. Even worse, we are hearing of more and more women who can’t take any more and commit suicide, sometimes taking their children with them.

The suicide rate is climbing, the pill bottle count in our medicine cabinets is rising – for years we were told that we needed to suck it up, pull up our big girl panties, soldier on and not let anyone outside our little world see our pain, our stress, our fears. We kept it all behind the walls of our housing areas, or inside the FRG meeting, in our chat rooms or on the phone tree. We didn’t see a counselor – because that just doesn’t look good to our husband’s command structure, it could harm his career (and that’s the livelihood of our family). We couldn’t talk to the physicians at the post hospital, it could end up on the permanent record, so we tell them we can’t sleep – and get a prescription; we are having trouble concentrating – and get a prescription; tell them we’re a little tense – and get a prescription. Mrs. Mullen in a recent presentation talked about a spouse with 7 mental health drug prescriptions, at the same time, with no counseling care followup.

We know there aren’t enough counselors, Military OneSource counselors aren’t available for long term care. The report talks about contracting with “dozens of new marriage and family therapists”. That’s a good first step, but there are limitations in how many times a person can be seen and child care availability are still a problem. And even though the senior command keeps telling us that there isn’t anything wrong with getting help, that it won’t affect our spouse’s career, that isn’t trickling down to those who are in need of the help.

As the report says “That deployment creates stress shouldn’t come as a surprise”. This is a cumulative problem. Not just a matter of how long the deployment is, but how often they deploy. We get tired, we get stressed, over and over and over…. And over….

6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 14, 2011 8:30 pm

    Amen sister!

  2. February 15, 2011 1:51 am

    I want to say, “Duh!” but the truth of the matter is that most civilians don’t see it. I am reminded of this fairly regularly in my interactions with people at work. I hope this makes some meaningful changes.

  3. February 15, 2011 8:11 am

    Exactly! When people said, “I don’t know how you do it” while my husband was deployed, and I’d reply “Zoloft.” Cue the crickets. From civilian and military alike. I still get crickets when talking of deployment with someone and the Zoloft comes up. I’m not ashamed. If we don’t talk, no one will know.

  4. February 15, 2011 12:00 pm

    I had the same “No, shit, Sherlock!” reaction but at the same time we, military spouses, have to be in charge of our own health, be it mental or physical. You have to remain informed and you have to be your own best advocate.

    First of all, you do not need to be seen by your PCM (primary care manager) to get a referral to see a counselor. You can easily pick up the phone and call Tricare and ask for one, then be referred to a civilian counselor (psychologist, psychiatrist etc).

    Also, if you do go to your on post PCM, and they answer your concerns with a prescription with pills, that is your choice to accept them and your choice to continue to receive that kind of care. You can change your PCM at any time and you can refuse prescriptions. I went through almost all the PCMs at my on post clinic to find the right fit for me and I couldn’t be happier.

    There are resources out there available and at some point you have to say, “Is my husband’s career more important than my health?” I think not.

    • libarmywife permalink
      February 15, 2011 3:45 pm

      Jessica – I agree with you – but you have missed a step. That step of admitting there is a problem – and being able to overcome that “you must not tell anyone you have a problem” mindset. If we don’t allow ourselves to realize that there is a reason to see a counselor, or talk to one on the phone, and we keep believing that if anyone finds out, it’s going to mess with the career – we aren’t going to do it. It’s all very well to say a job isn’t worth our health – but in the current job climate, this may be the difference in survival for the family!

      • February 16, 2011 5:46 pm

        Yes, I agree. That is why I continue to encourage military spouses around me to stay up to date on current resources and information and to be their own best advocate. Because in reality a SPOUSE’S mental health record is not going to negatively affect their military member’s career and by putting their health first they can better help and support their family.

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