-BY ANONYMOUS MILITARY SPOUSE; SHE AND HER HUSBAND ARE SERVING OVERSEAS
Did you know that the suicide rate in the military is the highest that it has been in over 10 years? During the first 155 days of 2012, there were 154 suicides of active duty soldiers. According to a Pentagon report released last August, one soldier commits suicide every 36 hours. In addition, the suicide rate among National Guard and Reserve soldiers has more than doubled.
What is the suicide rate of Military Spouses? No one knows because it is not documented nor is it researched. According to the military, suicides are only tracked for spouses “when possible”… shouldn’t we matter too?
We spouses are known as “the backbone of the soldier”, serving proudly in the shadows. Let me inform you that the shadow that we serve in can be a very dark, lonely and depressing place at times. We support our men and women in uniform, moving with them from place to place and even abroad, we are expected to bloom where the military plants us. We spend a majority of time alone, helping them through the symptoms of PTSD, finding odd jobs when available and raising our children with a sense of stability, even though there is none. Yet, we are not even accounted for (nor are we a statistic), we are only known as “dependents”. Suicide and PTSD is a serious issue among Military spouses and families, it needs to be addressed.
To quote another military spouse: “Ultimately spouses don’t need another program, they don’t need more training. What they need – what they want – is time. Time with their spouses, time together with their family, time with a counselor, a doctor or a minister. They want time to explore and understand what is happening to them . . . and the patience and understanding of loved ones, friends and the system itself. “
How can this be serious situation for spousal PTSD or Suicides be prevented?
ACCOUNTABILITY, ACKNOWLEDGEMNET and EDUCATION. We can start by making it known that IT IS A PROBLEM and VERY COMMON. We need to make counseling resources more readily available, who has time to check themselves into a mental facility? We have a family to take care of, a soldier to support, bills to pay, etc.
Another way of helping is to make the deployments shorter, a one-year tour is at least six months too long. Couples who are serving abroad on command sponsor tours need mentors for guidance and spouses need the same treatment as the soldiers, including medical treatment (I am currently serving abroad with my husband and have to receive medical treatment off post, over an hour away from where we live).
All military spouses should have the same resiliency training that their soldier receives (Most spouses don’t even know that this training is available). Marriage retreats and counseling should be available and mandatory for the soldier and spouse. More support groups and moral boosters for the spouse, children and families. The military needs to realize that the best moral booster a soldier can receive is quality time with his or her family, and we the spouses, need it too.
If you have a broken family, chances are you’re going to have a broken soldier, and vice versa.
Dear Military, if you have a broken soldier, well, you are only as strong as your weakest link. It can be fixed, but it has to start with the backbone.