Why Threaten Military Family Suicide?

Riders on the Storm

They threaten that a “storm” of suicide among military family members is coming.  They say that family suicide will spread “like an airborne disease.”  They say that the “grapevine” is full of family members who got so overburdened that they committed suicide.

But there aren’t any statistics to back that up. No agency tracks suicides among military family members.  Even though the rate of suicide among military members themselves set records last year, that number is still slightly below the national average.

Even one suicide is intolerable.  So it is worrisome that a recent NBC News article indicates we are supposed to be expecting more, not less, suicide among military family members as the troops return. Kristina Kaufmann, executive director of the nonprofit Code of Support, told NBC news:

“When you know that you are the anchor — and if you go down, the family’s going down — the problem is that you can only do that for so long,” said Kaufmann. “That population (of spouses) is at the most risk. Because the storm is going to happen when everybody comes home. That’s where we are, unfortunately, going to see an uptick in lots of negative outcomes, including suicide, including suicide among the spouses.”

That’s scary stuff.  Every military spouse I know is the anchor for her family.  (So I know a lot of deployment-weary women and a few exhaustified men.)

Yet suggesting that the role as an “anchor” is too much for family members goes against what we actually know about suicide.  That role as an anchor may be exactly what keeps people going even in the face of combat loss.

One of the most well-regarded theories about why people commit suicide comes from Clinical Psychologist Thomas Joiner.  Joiner found that that an individual will not die by suicide unless he or she has both the desire to die by suicide and the ability to do so.  (Please note:  military members and family members can always call the Military Crisis Line day or night. They offer crisis intervention by text (838255) as well as by phone (1-800-273-8255) or online chat.  These guys have an amazing ability to help you find the help you need.)

According to Joiner, the desire for suicide is created by two factors working on each other all the time.  A person has to perceive themselves as a burden to others and they also have to feel alienated from others, not an integral part of a family, circle of friends, or other valued group. (Read more about Joiner’s Model here).

Anchors, by definition, are not a burden.  Anchors are an essential part of a family at the very least.  And nowhere does it say that anchors have to be perfect at their job all the time.  Being an anchor is not the problem.  Feeling like a burden or feeling alienated are the problems.

We help each other with that. Instead of scaring ourselves with some theoretical approaching “storm,” we need to use what we know about military family life and the risk of suicide.  Including each other, reaching out to the new and the young, extending encouragement to every anchor we see are all things our community has done in the past.  And now we have an idea that they might be the clue to our future.










About the Author

Jacey Eckhart
Jacey Eckhart is the former Director of Spouse and Family Programs for Military.com. Since 1996, Eckhart’s take on military families has been featured in her syndicated column, her book The Homefront Club, and her award winning CDs These Boots and I Married a Spartan?? Most recently she has been featured as a military family subject matter expert on NBC Dateline, CBS morning news, CNN, NPR and the New York Times. Eckhart is an Air Force brat, a Navy wife and an Army mom. Find her at JaceyEckhart.net.

97 Comments on "Why Threaten Military Family Suicide?"

  1. jacey_eckhart | January 29, 2013 at 9:39 am |

    People do care. And from everything I have read, you are not the only one who is frustrated with the system. The thing is, a solution is not as easy as waving a magic wand over you. I wish it was. I really, really wish it was. Because I don't want you or anyone to be in that kind of pain.

    So you have to commit to the process. There will be a lot of trial and error. The research shows that depression DOES respond to treatment over time. It's the "over time" part that is hard. If you aren't getting help from the sources you have tried before, look for another source. Call Military OneSource again. Call Tricare again. Go back to your doctor. Persist. And keep in touch. I want to know what you decide to do next

    • You have some good points but The problem is when your depressed to the point of hurting yourself, the run around can run you off. It is so hard to ask for help in the first place but when you have to work the system, where does that extra drive come from when it takes all you have just to get out of bed?

      As for the military helping, well when my husband was seeing someone on post for his PTSD and was told to find someone off post because "it doesn't look good for an officer to be seen in the waiting room at mental health" that told me how much the military cares. I'd like to say it was just one person but the general attitude we encountered was one of disregard for those suffering. I would hope it was a location thing but I'm not really willing to find out. We go off post for all our needs now.

      I hate to be do negative because I think the military , the DoD, is trying but at the local level there is a lot of work to be done, lots of attitude changes needed.

      • I struggled with depression when I was in the Marines 3 years ago. My therapist acted as though I was being dramatic about my feelings and it was not a big deal. I got out and 2 years later my husband joined the Army and I feel as though I am in the same spot. The only reason I feel my dr thinks its legit is because I recently had a baby. It’s hard working with the military when it comes to mental health from the active duty perspective and the civilian perspective.

    • Of course people do care when their spouses recommend them to highly visible government supported programs and have not a concern about finance, housing and spousal safety. Some have witnessed your multiple performances and photo ops. Kudos to your taxpayer funded pr agent/manager. Time to get off the stage and away from the podium.

  2. I've been researching suicide and mental health among family members for a long time. and I realize we don't have the magic numbers. As Mrs. Mullen asked in 2010 – why? the complaint that they can't count us, or that HIPAA regs say they can't, or that it costs too much – is a large bunch of horse crap. the military is stretched, yeah we get that. and we are too. the days of pull up your big girl panties and stiff upper lip – didn't do much for us. In that story you quoted, you may have read of Kristy's three friends.. the tough ones who finally couldn't keep going. you call that storm "theoretical"… I'll call it what Mrs. Sheila Casey called it a couple of years ago – the tip of the iceberg. when you've heard the despair, and the exhaustion from the caregiver spouses that I hear; or seen that withdrawal from the world because they just can't keep the upper lip as stiff as everyone around them wants it – you understand that storm is right around the corner. Yes, we DO need to go off post, because the military mental health providers are swamped. I'd recommend Not Alone and Give an Hour, the vet centers sometimes have great social workers available.

    Putting our heads in the sand and saying we just need to buck up and pull up our socks – is not the answer. supporting each other, but realizing when we as friends cannot do it for you and when to get professional help, may stop this uncounted epidemic.

  3. I don't believe that we will see an epidemic of suicides when all is said and done. We are much stronger than we are given credit for in this news scenario. We adapt and we will find our new normal when all our servicemembers return. I truly believe that those who commit suicide would have done it regardless of their experience as a military spouse because that level of depression is an internal battle that rears it's ugly head regardless of what is happening on the outside. I would be more concerned with an increase in divorces since reintegration can be extremely difficult when you have spent more time alone than as a couple.

  4. Don’t forget about the caregivers to wounded warriors. While many may no longer consider us “military” we are. And in the last month we’ve lost 4 wives to suicide. Just because no agency is tracking it doesn’t mean that we aren’t…

    • jacey_eckhart | January 29, 2013 at 3:51 pm |

      You caregivers are always military to me. I don't have the right words to convey how much sadness there is in this situation. My heart goes out to you, yours, and ours.

  5. I don't read this as anyone threatening anyone or as anyone trying to paint military spouses with a broad brush. I read this as people who are concerned about military families and the impact of over a decade of war with a heavy Op Tempo. This lifestyle can put a strain on even the strongest of us.

    Mental Health for military family members is often overlooked. I think the only thing this article is trying to say is that it's time for people to pay attention and to prepare to support those who will struggle.

    It's also not a question of how people feel personally. My experience good or bad is not the litmus test for everyone else's experience. So saying, "They shouldn't say we're going to be suicidal, because I'm not suicidal" ignores the fact that another military spouse may very well be suicidal.

    And while I understand the logic you've used here, I can easily see why someone who has had to be an 'anchor' for countless deployments would feel hopeless, helpless, and depressed at the realization that their the physical and emotional toll of war leaves you as still being the anchor, but this time as a caretaker. That sounds like an incredibly overwhelming thing to me and people break and feel like they have no way out even if they have responsibilities to many other people. I think this article hi-lighted that by talking about Ms. Kaufman's friend who was the picture of the perfect army wife, always volunteering, smiling, and cheering others on. You never know what may be going on behind the smile.

    I am grateful that people are asking questions, raising awareness, and preparing. Whether or not it's an oncoming storm those preparations very well may save someone's life.

  6. The feeling of being weak, not able to handle stress, responsibility, feeling like a failure at all that is attempted, like a disappointment, that's where feeling like a burden comes in to play. I have worn a divot on the side of my bed….from not wanting to get out of it. I'd like to find a hole to put my head in frequently. I force myself to go to counseling appointments, then rush back home. I occasionally work up the courage to be social, putting my game face on, then the next thing I know….back to my room. I try not to complain, especially to my husband via the web cam, he has enough to concern himself with. The counselor cares, for an hour, the psychiatrist just pushes pills.

  7. This organization is making a difference, I have seen YouTube, and soldiers pass info along to friends. http://battleindistress.org/

  8. Sorry, just having a pity party. I'll be fine. Helped to vent.

  9. CHRISTIE WAGNER | January 29, 2013 at 7:18 pm |

    It's bad enough that active duty wives don't receive help but think what happens when you are the wife, then widow, of an officer who's fought in three wars and you were the around-the-clock caregiver for him the last 4 years of his life when he became physically almost totally immobile and mentally incompetent. Then, as thanks for your care, his estranged offspring (estranged many years before you even met your husband), have the money to hire attorneys to grab your entire estate and make you homeless and destitute.

    • Oh wow, how is that even possible? It must be different laws in every state, i thought the estate belonged to the wife no matter what. Unless this child was in the will or under 18, i don't understand how he/she received a dime!

  10. I can relate to this article. I just lost my husband who is a army ranger vet to suicide a couple months before our son was to be born. His army buddy took his about 8 months prior to that. And I continue to read the different vets and active duty soldiers who are continuing to take their lives due to different pressures.

  11. So basically, if you’re the anchor, you’re not allowed to feel suicidal? When you put suicide in a tiny box like that, it is a huge issue. You shame people for feeling that way if they are an “anchor”.

    I have attempted suicide a few times since my husband’s enlistment. I got a lot of threats and harassment from his command. I went through every resource the military offered and got turned away. My mental health issues became a joke in my husband’s shop, and I am constantly ridiculed by servicemembers and spouses(a Chief from my husband’s command made my issues public domain).

    But how dare I feel this way, right? How dare I not fit into that tiny little box. It was attitides like that that prevented me from getting the help I desperately need.

    • I recommend reading Surviving the Shadows. We are heart, soul, body, and mind in sync. We need each other and all those who laughed at you were hiding the fact that we all need each other and all have problems. I too tried once. Laughed at myself for being such a loser I couldn't even kill myself, like "Can't win for losing." It still cracks me up. I do still get depressed but it is sugar related. LOVE BACON and beef jerky! :) Each person is unique but there is always a reason for depression and it can be handled. Keep a journal of when you are depressed and keep it up until you find the right counselor. Remember Pocahontas? the song, just around the river bend? Life is like that. It's just around the river bend.

      • I know this isn't a popular subject, but have any of you tried GOD? I have the most supportive church family. My church family does more for me and my husband than our actual family. My old church and my new church call me, send my husband emails overseas and care packages. Everyone is always asking him, who sent you that? It's either me or one of my church family members from our old and new state. I've been down before, but going to church, reading the word and hearing from people that actually care keeps me grounded. Just a thought, it wouldn't hurt to try.

    • Our husbands have chosen a disgusting path that does not include us.. All of our attempts and like you there have been many attempts at ending it but it will not change that. He will never chose you over them. At your age leave get a job you are more important to the universe than this person Do not attempt to further contact his "workplace" they are as insensitive as he is.

      • Wow, you are currently married to an active duty servicemember? You may want to consider counseling to deal with your anger about your decision to marry one. Marriage counseling may be beneficial to see if you both can find happiness. I wonder how happy your husband is when knowing that you believe his choice to be in the military is disgusting and you think he is an insensitive prick. Why stay married when you hate who he is. I have met many women who's love for their husband sustains them through the hard times. They also understand and are proud of their spouse's commitment to their country and their branch of service. Even though things can get tough and we struggle and we may hate the situations we are expected to deal with, we still love the person we have chosen to spend our lives with.

        • My husband was not an active duty member when we were married. He was an extremely successful corporate executive for more than 18 years. We have never suffered hard times. My father was a decorated WWII vet and my cousin was a vietnam vet who committed sucicide after his unit was annilated. After knowing this my husband chose the military over having children and a life. My husband knows my feeling about his new "employment" and his is fully aware of the end of our relationship because of it. He has chosen his relationship with othersand so will many of your spouses when they do a similar change of employers. Your spouses do not commit to your country they only commit to their own ego. Again its interesting that most females side with power structure rather than realityl

  12. First, stop referring to the spouse as “her”. I am a male spouse and it is just hard if not harder on us when we are left dealing with everything. Second, I have attempted suicide when my wife came back from a deployment. I won’t go into details. I am not sure why it all happened or why I thought that was the right choice at the time. I do know that no one in the military gave a rats ass. The is no real support out there for those of us that struggle. I reached out to chaplains, chain of command, behavior medicine on post. Three appointments later and I was “cured” and an outcast from my wife’s unit. The military and all of their talk of support for soldiers and families is cheap lip service.

    • Jacob,
      I’m so sorry to read about your struggles. There is a hole in the system, especially for spouses. I’ve noticed that a spouse is always pictured as a wife, but never a husband. Are things getting better for you?

    • Jacob,
      I’m so sorry to read about your struggles. There is a hole in the system, especially for spouses. I’ve noticed that a spouse is always pictured as a wife, but never a husband. Are things getting better for you?

    • Jacob – having talked to Wayne Perry and Jeremy Hilton a lot, this is a common feeling amongst the man-spouses (as Wayne calls them) have you contacted him at MANning the Homefront? He's setting up some good support networks. Please reach out to him.

    • Jacob, it's like all of us reading the bible and any religious texts and attending services– its all he he he . No disrespect intended.

  13. With all due respect, I think the fact that you are a Navy wife clouds your judgement on this issue. The burden of combat in these two wars has been bore by the Army/Marines and National Guard, not the Navy/Air Force/Coast Guard. I don't expect you to understand what five solid years out of eleven in heavy combat does to a man. However, I know all too well. I don't expect you to comprehend that the men in these branches have seen more combat than any before them. THAT changes people. Those changed people come home, and most of them…will never function fully again. That is statistically played out in piles of research since the Vietnam war. Those bills from Vietnam in PTSD related family issues are just now coming due 30 to 40 years later. Your suggestion is that people get waist deep in the process of healing.

      • NAIL MEET HEAD! :)

      • Armywife928 | January 31, 2013 at 2:49 pm |

        Very good response. I am an Army wife and I agree with your comment. Every Serviceman and woman deploy to a land that is not our own. They wake up every day not knowing if they will face death or they will see death all around them. Our men and women coming home are changed. Suicide and lonliness does not discriminate by rank, division, gender, race or age ect…. I am meeting spouses here on base who struggle with army life, with being away from home, feeling like they don't have a life anymore because their husbands time is spent more in uniform than at home. Military service is hard on everyone involved. It's even harder when no one on base cares about the next person. I have yet to hear from my FRG leader. I came here pregnant and not once did I get a call a card or an invitation to an FRG meeting. I did get asked to donate money. Help is not on base.

  14. Cont'd Again, understandable with your prospective as a Navy wife…but my husband has not been home more than six months straight in TWELVE years. True story. Between deployments, TDY and training…exactly when do I have the time to myself to focus on myself to give in to the process. More importantly, when does HE have the time to give in to his own process? You are missing the real issue…the OPTEMPO of the past two wars is INHUMANE. Period. End of story. You are naive to think this storm is not coming, and what is worse is you are using your platform to dminish it.

    • You NAILED it. IMO. Bless You and I agree with you. ALL this time Ive been led to believe that my situation was so "unusual" or out of the box and here I am reading about active duty folks enduring the same DECADE PLUS of war duty FULL ON. THERE IS NO TIME OR CONSIDERATION FOR THE ACTIVE DUTY SOLDIER TO EVEN ATTEMPT therapy or processing! And there certainly isnt when he gets reassigned post career via a civlian war job. EVERYONE knows this but no one wants to admit it. I found it a bit more than dismissive brush off of what many concerned and fed up whistleblowers are trying to expose. To dismiss or deny that there are serious problems regarding this particular war ops is not helpful and implies that there isnt as BIG a problem as some would claim. Thats a piss poor way to respond in any event.

  15. Personally, in recent months the family memeber mental health issues I've worried most about were the children of our families as opposed to spouses. I learned my college age daughter was seeking mental health at the university. As parents we simply ALWAYS do our best for our children – ALWAYS – right? We left for a European duty station 3 weeks after 9/11. Our military member was deployed 27 months with at least another 12 months field training. I'd happily leave work to spend the rest of the evening transporting and supporting 4 children to and from various sporting, academic and theatre activities; sometimes ending well past bedtime. As a side note, I might have fit another Bachelor's and Master's degrees in the same time frame as couldn't waste my Gi bill benefits. Hubby is now retired, but recently our eldest (21) sent a dagger to my heart with "You weren't there for us emotionally" . Her age during deployments was 12-16. In exploring the topic with my now 19 year old I encountered an even deeper critique of my parenting.

    • Competely understand. Although my husband wasn't deployed that long, he did go to training, then overseas when our third child was 3mos. It seemed like i didn't have enough time for the middle child. I felt really bad about it. I would wake up 3 or 4am to start the day, by 5am the baby was up. Trying to get everyone ready for school and daycare was a challenge. Then getting off work finding dinner, picking everyone up, helping my eldest son with homework and feeding the youngest. My 3yr old had no one to play with or pay him any attention. It seemed like bed time came quickly! I started staying up late with my 2yr old to give him that quality time he wanted, he would cry at bed time, saying mommy i didn't get to do anything. I noticed he felt alone because he started misbehaving at daycare, that was so unlike him. He's such a sweet kid! Sometimes you just feel like you're not doing enough.

    • TAM~ its exhausting trying to be mom and dad during deployments-I tried and failed miserably. Called my husband home in utter desperation at 12 months of a 15 month deployment ( his second) due to the decline in our 12 year olds mental health( which I tried to conceal from him….what could he do from Iraq???)… Only to get him home to cut our son down from a noose after being here for two weeks. I don't think you failed or neglected your children. WE give all we have when they are gone. We burn our candle at both ends and go AND GO, GO, GO. In time your nineteen year old will have a better appreciation for all you did. I know my words don't help lessen the pain of the critique now. Nobody who hasn't walked in our shoes can understand.

  16. Honestly their ideal mom is the "Gilmore Girls" mom – no cable in Europe that was their tv. The younger two still at home have come to my defense. I've since realized as military spouses and members we cannot let those we've protected from all we endured emotionally, suddenly project their learned idealism upon us as they come into adulthood. We ALWAYS did our best! You want to be a different adult, be a different parent…learn from our ALWAYS BEST efforts!!

    • Girls and their moms – and teenagers – usually fight like cats. I had a terrible relationship as a teen/young adult with mine. A little history – I am a State Dept Brat – moved a lot too, and as a teenager I was terribly angry with my parents at making me tear out roots every couple of years. It mellows. It does. And you did your best, and deep down they know it. It just wasn't the childhood that we were told it was supposed to be – Leave it To Beaver/Father Knows Best (in my generation). wasn't the apple pie and the forever understanding mom/best friend. Reality – well that's a different thing. Don't beat yourself up – and while this doesn't help right NOW, they will forgive you eventually, when they calm down and have time to think.

    • One thing that i've noticed, everyone has their own version of the same car ride. Me, my sister and brother will tell you three different stories about our childhood. My sister and i agree on a lot of things, but my brother is out there and i don't know why. His stories cater to his feelings. Anyway, there are a lot things i understand now that i have my own children. Of course there are things that i don't consider great or fair but i've made my peace with them. My relationship was really bad with my mother and she wasn't a military wife long enough to travel, my dad retired not too long after they were married. Our issues are not connected to military life, sometimes you can be there and not be there if that makes sense. I think in time they will undertand.

  17. Mrs. Roberts | January 30, 2013 at 4:49 am |

    This is a greater concern than you may think. We have children and spouses dying if suicide. The only difference is that you do not read about them in the papers. I have taken a stand here in my community. I believe that denial of the facts only feeds the stigma. No one ever thinks that this will happen to them, and when it does
    they are mortified. Rather than sweeping the truth under the rug, we need to further educate and work on prevention.
    Please understand that I speak up so that. save lives. No parent should ever walk in these shoes. Feel free to look at my profile @www.militaryspouse.com/profile/850

    • Tricia Radenz | February 2, 2013 at 12:11 pm |

      Kudos, Mrs.Roberts! I also walk in your shoes and until it happens in your family you cannot BEGIN to understand the agony it brings! The problem is far worse than anyone realizes as we (you and I) are so much more sensitive to every murmur of a spouse (not just wife) or CHILD ending their life. These events are not publicized, counted or tracked to know the true scope of the problem. As a comment stated earlier the divorce rate is higher among military couples…. Mmmmm, hello? That's a major support structure as well as protective structure against suicide. As military families we ARE strong but we are also human. We endure, we endure sometimes until we can endure no more. To imply that if someone is going to die by suicide there is nothing that can be done to stop it is just not true-read the studies on the Golden Gate Bridge. I strongly believe EVERY spouse, EVERY CHILD is worth saving. If anyone is of the mindset that nothing can be done…well, give up then and shut up. Let your child or spouse be next-I'll keep fighting for your family…. And your welcome! Keep fighting with me Mrs. Roberts … And thank you…whew

  18. @sabrina, how dare you insinuate that the Navy is not contributing to the 11 years of wars going on! I am a very proud wife of a Navy SEAL and my husband as well as his teammates have put in over 260 days a year deployed to combat zones or training. My community is full of men who have contributed just as much if not more of their time and lives as your army or marines. Don’t delude yourself that this is only a two branch military fight.

  19. @sabrina, how dare you insinuate that the Navy is not contributing to the 11 years of wars going on! I am a very proud wife of a Navy SEAL and my husband as well as his teammates have put in over 260 days a year deployed to combat zones or training. My community is full of men who have contributed just as much if not more of their time and lives as your army or marines. Don’t confuse yourself that this is only a two branch military fight.

    • The Seals are a very tiny minority in the Navy. But do forgive me for not including them, I was referring to the branch as whole…here's a good statistic for you…Army have made up less than 40 percent of the active military in these two wars, yet they have sustained 57 percent of the casualties. It is by and large entirely a 2 branch fight…when was the last time a Seal time was deployed to combat for a straight year? Let alone 5, 6 or 7 straight years out of eleven…as is not uncommon in the senior enlisted ranks of the Army? My point remains….the OPTEMPO being sustained by the Army/Marines and National Guard is inhumane. Suicide statistics will always be a tiny minority of a larger iceberg of military family mental health.

  20. Sabrina, as I would not begin to make judgements of other forces you shouldn't either. I've been a SEAL spouse for 13 years and I can speak with direct knowledge of SEAL teams deploying for a year all throughout the past 11 years and still. If you want to get down to the nitty gritty of "statistics " I could blow you away with the "actual" amount of work being done vs. sitting around "waiting" to do work. There are all sorts of issues with optempo for ALL branches. Not one worse than the other. Stop denigrating the Navy about their fair share of combat effort. By doing so you take away from the real problem at hand being discussed in this article.

    • And I have been an Army spouse for 17 years. So there ya go. You are taking this as a personal attack and it was not. The point remains there is a huge difference between deployment and actual combat. Most of the military has deployed in these two wars, most have not seen combat. The men in combat MOSs or directly supporting combat MOSs in infantry brigades have seen the real brunt of this war and so have their families. I will not argue Seal teams training and deploying 280 days a year…but do you know any who have deployed to a combat zone in an infantry capacity (totally excluding training) 5, 6 or 7 YEARS out of the past 11? That is absolutely not uncommon in the senior enlisted Army world. By pointing this out I am not attempting to de efface anyone but call out the elephant in the room. Too few men are bearing the brunt of these two wars. The OPTEMPO is insane and inhumane. Systemic mental heal issues in these families are increasingly the norm. And suicide is only the tip of a giant iceberg of mental health that is coming our way for these families, yours included.

  21. David L. Heckman | January 30, 2013 at 11:34 am |

    When the military went all volunteer, this is a side effect not thought of. When suicide is felt as the only solution to a problem, something is very wrong. I know there is help but no one wants to admit they need help. The military and their families are thought of as strong and no help is needed, wrong idea. It is stronger to see the need for help and getting it. I am retired Army veteran, been in combat, left my family for periods of time, and my wife has let me know how hard life was without me and I feel the same. I am now a mental health counselor, there is more help out there today than ever but no one uses it unless ordered to, maybe we need to be ordered to get help and follow thru to the end no matter what.

    • David – I'm not sure ordering anyone to get help is going to work. besides, as our Garrison CO told me last week, he can't order spouses/family members to get help. Of course, making sure that they know there IS help, would be helpful! and before someone says – MFLCS are available – yes I know that. and yes, I also know that going to someone isn't going to affect my spouse's clearance or job – but many still think it will. education is crucial. Hiding our heads in a hole and saying "we're tough" is counter productive.

  22. Yeah let's keep the women sniping at each so they stay away from one of the primary issues — no matter what branch of service your spouse is in, the fact of the matter is, it is more important that your relationship with one another. Our spouses chose this profession over our relationship with them, they continue to choose it, and if given the further choice between us (and our children) or this "career" guess who loses. We have to find some way to connect with one another, get some self esteem and build lives outside of the relationship — they already did.

  23. Having read all of his books AND met Dr. Joiner (and specifically discussed this complex topic with him). I also I believe his theories are right on target for the general population and his studies and data certainly support that. On the topic as it relates to the military, I'd like to share but a few sources DR. JOINER, himself, shared with me on recent studies and quite a few of the published articles, lending evidence that the military/ military family faces additional stressors and do not exactly fall into the same proven theories the general population do:
    Military Suicide Research Consortium
    Article published January 29, 2013 By Campus Progress
    "The military demands a narrowly defined hyper masculine version of toughness and strength that typically isn't associated with those who admittedly suffer from and seek from mental health issues. This dangerously fabricated binary can lead those suffering in silence feeling disparate to take measures into their own hands".
    As far as suicide rates being lower among military:
    Same site provided by Dr. Joiner- "Doctors Warned on Combat Link to Military Suicide Risk" published Jan 28, 2013
    " Rates for civilian and military are now about the same when matched along age and gender demographics, but before the Iraq and Afghanistan wars started suicide rate was about half of the rate for general population."
    Also found on the same site provided to me by Dr. Joiner:
    According to Dr. Craig Bryan (who I have also attended lectures with on military mental health studies). The biggest implication of the new research is that there are differences between the civilian and military population.
    Same link provided By Dr. Joiner:
    Quoting Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, " One suicide in a family boost future suicide risk for everyone inside the home".
    Dr. Alan Berman, "No question, data supports there's at least a doubling of risk among surviving family members."

    This data concludes to the person with common sense that if suicide numbers among active duty soldiers are on the rise then the numbers are also increasing for family members. Soldiers face unique stressors and DO NOT fall solely into conventional theories of suicide, neither do family members or "anchors". I am the wife of an active duty soldier of twenty years. My and myself, along with two sons have survived the suicide of our twelve year old son who died of a "deployment related mental illness".

    • I think you are making a very important distinction, there is a significant difference in military life and the stressors therein and the culture thereof…related to the civilian life. Here's an aside for instance…I went to an off post civilian counselor one time, myself, trying to seek help for what I suppose is caregriver stress of some sort (not suicidal..homicidal), and help giving me to words to get my husband to seek care. You know why I never went back? After hearing our life for the past decade the woman was a worse mess than I was and her great psychiatric epiphany for me? I should get a divorce, immediately…"before he snaps and kills you." Nice. And no there is no domestic abuse involved, it was just her perception that PTSD or combat stress=wife murderer.

      • It is tough for the civilian population to fully understand the true nature of the STRESS military families endure on a daily basis if they have not lived the military life. I'm not saying there are not providers who can't be helpful in their counseling- but we must find one who has experience with what military life means. We are a unique population and MUST have providers who recognize this and can treat appropriately.

      • jacey_eckhart | February 1, 2013 at 2:42 am |

        We tell people all the time "get help," which would be great–if the "help" available actually made a difference. I cannot tell you how many stories we get about stupid things civilian providers say to military members and their families. Yes, I know we have a stigma in our culture about seeking mental health care. Are the stupid things providers say contributing to the reluctance to seek help??

    • jacey_eckhart | February 1, 2013 at 2:46 am |

      Thanks for this info, Tricia. We clearly need to know more about how this affects military families specifically. The majority of us are civilians, but the stressors provided by military life that are not experienced by the civilian population at large are significant. Did Joiner tell you about any ongoing research about families?

  24. jacey_eckhart | January 29, 2013 at 1:39 pm |

    You are right that stiff upper lip is not gonna cut it. On SpouseBuzz we say all the time that no two spouses are the same. We all come at this life from different places with different skills. That said, how do we provide services to spouses in need AND not scare ourselves into catastrophe?

  25. You seem to have missed my statement, "We are much stronger than we are given credit for in this news scenario."
    I didn't just pull my viewpoint out of my backside. I have a great life, a great family, a beautiful home and financial stability. So explain to me why I lapse into a worsening depression when I do not take antidepressants. I have seen therapists and counselors since I was 14 and 31 years later it is still a battle. The only thing that keeps me on this earth is my immediate family. So when those danger signs rear their ugly head I go back to the doc and ask for a new prescription because I do not want to hurt the ones I love the most. I actually feel guilty for being depressed when I have so much.

  26. I don't agree with the media portraying us as women who will ultimately break. If I can wake up every morning and start a new day, then I am far from breaking. How about we praise the strength and resilience of military spouses instead of dooming them to depression and suicide. Yes, suicide happens but to blame it solely on external forces is not truthful. Maybe we should focus more on coping skills to empower spouses so that they know they can conquer whatever life puts in their path.

  27. no one is "dooming" spouses. this piece is describing what happened to some, and what is happening to many, and calling attention to the very real problem of suicide, depression and a lack of mental health providers who understand what some families are dealing with. Some break, and it's up to us to show them where to get help. telling them to suck it up – doesn't work. Avoiding the topic, is NOT helping anyone. Nor does talking about it make anyone commit suicide.

  28. I would never insinuate we are the only ones suffering…but I will certainly maintain all suffering is NOT created equal. For you to assert that deployment mius combat is equal in stressor or mental health attribution is just plain wrong and can't be upheld with a single statistic I know of. Deployment, and repeat deployment is not the issue…repeat combat deployment is the issue. You are the one making pinpoint personal attacks not me. I speak of a broader problem that clearly exists…the non spreading of the wealth of combat deloyments is inhumane. And I am greatly alarmed when the statistic by which we measure military family mental health is the suicide rate. Do people have to die to be counted? Suicide will always be a minority issue, the majority of people with live on with PTSD, secondary PTSD and all the familial problems which come with both. And routinely they will suffer with no help whatsoever from the military they have given their lives to. That is the point.

  29. Clearly someone hasn't looked at the statistics and doesn't realize suicide is a problem for all branches. But do go on and get down with your delusional self. I will just sit back and tell my husband you think IA tours aren't real service. Oh and all those deployments he did doing drug interdictions and fighting pirates don't count. And let's not forget that they seriously don't count pre2001 because the Army was sitting at home and they're the only branch that is allowed to have issues. Grow up.

  30. MsPixiewings, you stated that nobody seems to care, well let me tell you, that I care! A whole lot more then you think. I realized that military wifes and families have it hard and alot of time, there is no one to help out at that particular moment, so you shut yourself up in your quarters or at home and hide your feelings. Stop and count your times that you do this and throw it all out the window. I realized its hard, very hard, but only you can help yourself if others won't take the time for you. Alot of the younger lower enlisted wifes are in the same situation and think no one cares. I do! You all need to get out of them homes and get a hobby where you meet others with the same feelings, military or otherwise. Just get out and do your own thing, with the kids too, There's nothing to be ashame of to seek help. Sometimes a good talk with someone else helps alot. I DO CARE!

  31. Forget militaryone source. After crying my heart out to a representative and then a manager I was assigned to a case worker who called me up, started to eat while she was questioning, laughed then accused me of just venting, then told me to find a friend and go to my primary care physician and get some sleeping pills. Thats great advice for someone who's suicidal. Took me days to leave my apartment after that fabulous encounter. FYI not alone does not service most parts of the country. Better would be the frgs would do their jobs and reach out to the spouse or at least start some sort of on line groups or sessions where we could login anonymously and connect with one another instead of subjecting ourselves to these money hungry ineffective institutions.

  32. The problem lies in blanketed stats. If you take an overly large research element…such as the entire military forces the majority of which has not seen combat…and then you try to extend those findings to the correlation between combat exposure and mental health in families…you end up doing one thing which harms all of the families dealing with PTSD, Secondary PTSD and related mental health illnesses regardless of what uniform our spouses wear: you water down the statistics. In that way, the DoD can continue to say for the rest of humankind inperpetuity….there is no correlation between combat exposure, and in these two wars more importantly repeat combat exposure and familial mental health. And THAT is a major fallacy.
    What I was trying to say was not a holier than thou approach, it was a statistical point of reference. I think the major problem the DoD has in addressing mental health in families and service members directly stems from this type of blanketed all encompassing research. You can't see the forest through the trees, as it wAre deployments without combat tough ya you betcha, but deployments and repeat deployments ere. with combat are the root cause of the mental health problem I see in the Army.

  33. Cont'd
    I am only going to reference the Army, because I am not in the Navy…but the primary stats remain, most of the combat is done by the Army/Marines and the National Guard…so a true research model for the correlation between combat and mental health would focus on that population.
    I'd argue you'd want an entirely different study for special forces across all branches, bcause it is its own beast. But to lump every noncombat deployment in with the very small minority of the 1% of the US population even serving at any given time…gets us nowhere.
    Once again, I am sorry you took offense. But its not unlke the gun debate…you have to call every elephant out in the room to get to the root of this problem. The time for playing nicey nice, is far gone.

  34. The longitudinal Millennium Cohort Study the largest research study of its kind spanning 22 years and having 50,184 participants concluded that “The findings emphasize that specific combat exposures, rather than deployment itself, significantly affect the onset of symptoms of PTSD after deployment.” The incidence of self reporting for mental health issues was almost seven times greater in those who actually experienced combat than those who had not seen combat. Therefore, lumping the entire armed forces into one study on mental health is really bad science.

  35. And combat service isn't restricted to the Army. Ask all the spouses of medics from the Navy who didn't come home.
    Lots of people struggle for all sorts of reasons. If you are struggling, I encourage you to get help and stop disenfranchising other spouses and their service members because you don't think they have bled (metaphorically or actually) enough.
    It's rude and disrespectful. Go get some help.

  36. Just an fyi — not alone doesn't cover most parts of the country and giveanhour requires any participant who takes that hour to "give back" to another charitable organization in the area. Most of us have nothing left to give.

  37. NYCgurl – Not Alone has online and by phone support – I'm sorry you are SO angry – and have decided that no one is helping you or can help anyone else.

  38. Guess you've never been deeply depressed and tried to navigate all the "helpful" people and taxpayer funded programs. I have an entire email exchange from not alone to their military funded program at cornerstone which didn't even cover my area. But did however want to interview me extensively without 100% confidentiality and no guarantee of support. Unfortunate that so many of our gender tend to dismiss each others pain. Most would rather attack and side with the current power structure. It's not through anonymous and institutionalized programs that we can gamer true support. It's through one another.

  39. I'd appreciate you actually reading what I say, and not what you would like me to have said so you can be angry. Nothing about saying that a focused study on families who have seen repeat combat deployments and the associated familial mental health dminishes Navy/Air Force or Coast Guard service. Hard is a ridiculous word, it has several different conotations. What I have said, and continue to maintain is that combat deployment effects soldiers differently, that in turn effects families differently. To do a broad paint brush study of the entire military forces does nothing but water down statistics. I also said…that a completely different study might be done with special forces since it is its own beast. No one ever said combat service was restricted to the Army. What I said was the Army/Marines and National Guard have taken the brunt of most combat in these two wars, which is statistically accurate.

  40. Guest just another entitled military spouse mooch who hasn't read the fatality statistics.

  41. Listen mooch — read the fatality statistics. They're all dying while you cash someone's paycheck and enjoy a fully funded lifestyle based on taxpayer funding of the guard and reserves and other people's children.

  42. That is a truly brilliant idea!

  43. I am not a mooch, I have worked my entire life, hold two Bachelors and a Masters and have owned two businesses. I have a sneaky suspicion I have paid more in self employment taxes then you have ever paid in taxes….oh and guess what, I also worked for DoD for years, also paying taxes.

  44. You should really stop thinking all military wives don't work, aren't educated, and don't read statistics. I have a Bachelors of Science in Business Administration with a concentration in STATISTICS, I also have a Masters in Organizational Leadership with a concentration in Servant Leadership. I care about people and want to see them get the help they need, which blanket statistics do nothing but downplay the very real need for research funding and resources for families… not to mention a reconsideration by the DoD of the OpTempo.

  45. thanks, Sabrina – I keep hearing that… but getting any concrete results has been an exercise in futility. No one wants to make a decision, and they keep saying "there are issues…". so, we keep fighting the good fight.

  46. Sabrina, it is apparent you are passionate about the mental health needs of the military and their families and I commend you for making your voice heard. I am concerned that you are hopeful for a reconsideration of the OpTempo. The OpTempo is driven by the strategical plan for the conflicts our government chooses to pursue. It is also affected by the resources available and the funds available to increase additional resources if approved. Our military, while in fact are human beings, are government resources. As long as there is a need and less funds, the OpTempo will be greater than at "peacetime". I don't believe the condition of our military and family's mental health is a deciding factor in the numbers of how many servicemembers are utilized at various locations.

  47. Human beings can not be treated sac innate resources. They are assets, yes, but no one checks their humanity at the door when they join the military. I think anyone with any iota of intelligence can look at the current OpTempo and realize it is detrimental to force stability, and therefore force strength. Anyone with a background in HR, Sociology, Psychology or Org Behavoir from outside the force looks at what is happening inside the force and says…"that is NUTS". Is military life unique yes…do human beings become unemotional, brain health, cardiovascular Heath, auto immune health Immune to stress, repeat and prolonged stress when they put on a uniform…no they do NOT. That attitude is the very thing keeping people from care. The OpTempo is unsustainable in human capital.

  48. They shouldn't be treated as innate resources, but they are. They are not looking at personal profiles for manning mission objectives, they are looking at job profiles, ie: MOS, rank, and additional qualifications achieved within their MOS.

  49. The other side of that is holding on to nondeployable people instead of getting rid of them and filling up those gaps with deployable people who can enter the deployment rotation and allow some people to get a break.

  50. who paid paid for your degrees? Think it is the rest of us taxpayers and working for DOD that's pretty much settling my case — mooch My husband and I worked a combined 45+ years in corporate america

  51. nycgurl: Then why do you keep expecting everyone else to pick up YOUR tab when it comes to your health care? If you have been so widely successful, surely you have the resources now to help yourself? I am getting ever so tired of this attitude…

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