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.
  • jacey_eckhart

    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

    • Becca

      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.

      • Danielle

        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.

    • Nycgurl

      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.

  • Karen

    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.

    • Nycgurl

      all of this talk did not preclude you from being attackful to someone in pain. Disgraceful.

  • mel

    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.

  • Paxton

    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

      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.

  • beingmade

    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.

  • Red

    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.

  • ArmyMom

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

  • Red

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

  • CHRISTIE WAGNER

    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.

    • TNB

      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!

  • selena

    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.

    • Jojo

      So sorry for your lossI lost mine to suicide too
      I hope u r feeling my faraway Hugh’s

  • ?
  • Jen
  • Bri

    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.

    • Huldah1776

      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.

      • TNB

        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.

    • nycgurl

      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.

      • mel

        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.

        • nycgurl

          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

  • S
  • Jacob

    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.

    • Wendy

      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?

    • Wendy

      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?

    • Karen

      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.

    • Nycgurl

      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.

  • Sabrina

    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.

    • Frog wife
      • Guest

        AMEN! -fellow frog wife

    • Frog wife
    • Frog wife
    • Guest
      • Guest

        NAIL MEET HEAD! :)

      • Armywife928

        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.

  • Sabrina

    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.

    • michele

      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.

  • TAM

    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.

    • TNB

      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.

    • Tricia

      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.

  • TAM

    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!!

    • Nicole
    • Nicole
    • Ks
    • Karen

      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.

    • TNB

      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.

  • Eva
  • Eva
  • Mrs. Roberts

    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

      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

  • Frogwife

    @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.

    • Guest

      AMEN – fellow frog wife

  • Frogwife

    @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.

    • Sabrina

      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.

  • Frog wife

    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.

    • Sabrina

      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.

  • David L. Heckman

    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.

    • Karen

      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.

  • nycgurl

    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.

  • Tricia

    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”.

    • Sabrina

      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.

      • Tricia

        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

        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

      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?

  • Tricia