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Archive for the ‘Counseling’ Category

When it comes to Mental Health, the old saying one size fits all – is absolutely positively completely WRONG. Every person has their own needs, their own story; their own way of dealing with whatever is stressing them.

Here’s a pretty decent list from Health.mil.  We have all seen most of them, but it’s at least in one place.  Bookmark it.  Couldn’t hurt, right?

Now… what about making our own list??  If you have used a service, if you think it helped, let everyone know.  If you want to leave it in the comments, great.  If you’d rather let me know privately, mmuttering at gmail

KSF

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Today we hear of another veteran, Wendy M. Torrey of Iowa, who decided she couldn’t go on, who decided that suicide was her only way out of her depression and PTS. As her father said in the report from the Quad City Times

“We’re just dumfounded, because we didn’t see it coming,” said her father, John Torrey of Corpus Christi, Texas. “She didn’t tell us much about Bosnia. Veterans hide those things from people they care about.”

She was a Bosnia veteran, who had other grief in her life but appeared to be making headway.  She realized she had a problem and according to her obituary

Wendy was undergoing rehabilitative services for post traumatic stress disorder at the Battle Creek, Mich., Veterans Hospital at the time of her death.

She had lost her husband to a car accident in 2003.  Her son will be living with her parents in Texas.  Her obituary describes an “effervescent” and “exuberant” person – who had a penchant for practical jokes in high school, and who worked for veterans later in life.

What a huge loss for all of us. How terrible for her family, for her friends, for her son. She was in treatment, we think that treatment will stop suicide no matter what; that once someone has decided that they should do counseling or get treatment, that they will be fine.  And we’ll all see the questions – was there something else I could have done – did we miss something – why did she do this?  We don’t know. We can only remember to reach out to each other, to hold out a hand and make sure our friends know we are there.

From our veterans, to our active service members, and our military family members – they need to know we are all there.  Reach out, call that friend who has been down, drop by the fellow spouse who is starting a deployment cycle, or who is at that “it will never end” stage.  Reach out.  Please.

Thank you to American Women Veterans for the notification

KSF

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I happen to be a HUGE fan of Deborah Mullen, the wife of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. She is one of the best advocates for us, for military spouses. When I’ve met her, she’s been down to earth, ready to roll up her sleeves and get to work. She uses her voice, her status, to give us all a voice. This speech, given at the Military Health Services Annual Conference was one that made me stand up and cheer.

She talks about anticipatory grief, secondary PTS, the situation of children missing school because their parent is unable to get up; the abuse of alcohol and drugs.  She talks about the lack of tracking, the lack of ability to get to the spouses.  She talks about the stigma still attached to mental health issues, that we still worry about the negative impact on the servicemember’s career.  She discusses the spouse who is given 5 meds and no followup appointment and no referral to mental health; the 1/15 rule.  Why are we failing to look at the totality of the problem, why do we expect the young spouse to look after the service member, but not herself.

This line resonated with me:

You do not have to put on a pair of combat boots and patrol outside the wire to suffer the effects of war. If it is keeping you from living your life and loving your family, you owe it to yourself — and frankly the military owes it to YOU — to get the help you need.

As Mrs. Mullen says, we have all sorts of programs, training, but we don’t have a place to find them all!  And we need time to recover.

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.

We need to reach out to each other.  We need to keep talking to each other.  Recently, a friend of mine decided to “go dark”  as she dealt with some stuff.  We made sure she was ok, safe and that she knew we were there.  Did we hover?  Maybe.  Did we think she was suicidal? No.  But did we want to make sure she knew we were there if she needed us?  Yes.  That’s the difference.

I talked to my husband about Jessica’s letter on her blog.  When he read it, he remarked that the symptoms seemed like those he had heard to watch out for during all his training – the infamous “don’t kill your self, don’t kick the wife or the dog” when you reintegrate training and the new resiliency training.  Since we aren’t (for another few days) in a unit that conducts resiliency training for families – I’m going to go find some at ACS.

I for one, would rather be a pest – I’d rather you hate me for being a pain in the ass – because you have to be alive to hate me.  That’s what I care about.  That you are alive.

KSF

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The story I linked to yesterday, by Alison Buckholtz, has some interesting comments. They run the gamut, from support for Jessica and other military spouses, to a not so supportive diatribe of bad grammar and suppositions that frankly flummoxed me. Especially when you realize, this is another military spouse who says

Well first off this is a sad story but on the other hand I dont feel that bad for her.. I know that sounds bad but I just think when she refers to how she wished her husband died in combat I just think she was refering to the money she would have recieved and not the support from the local army community (because she has no job,etc and now is single). Also there is a saying “If the Army wanted you to have a family, it would have issued you one” … That being said they have improved many things for spouse “dependents” and I find it hard to believe they turned her away at any family support group especially when she had suidical thoughts…We might not be the first priority on the armys list but we are very important to them and not just to them but to our soldiers fighting the wars…I just cant feel that bad for this woman.. She put it out there so to me she was looking for attention… I just dont feel bad for woman who do this types of things when they are in a middle of a divorce and or just divorce a service member…. There are many things on base she could have seek help at and I just dont think she tried hard enough

Well,  lrsack, let me put you straight here.   She’s not looking for attention, she wanted to make her (thank goodness not successful) suicide actually mean something.  Having dealt with an FRG leader who refused help, informed us that she wasn’t there to make phone calls, or deal with families – she was there because her husband told her she had to do it, and she was going to raise lots of money to have the best holiday party ever – I can believe Jessica’s “cold shoulder” story.  If you aren’t a member of the in crowd or permanent party at a school post – they don’t want you.  Really.

If you’ve not been in this depth of depression, if you haven’t looked into that dark place, I don’t think you can understand why she felt this way.  What bothers me even more, is that an attitude like this isn’t that rare in the milspouse world.

So – what do you think.  Let’s have it!

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This week, a lot of us are going to be talking more about suicide in military families – the spouses and family members who have been “handling” 10 years of two wars and multiple deployments; and who are at a breaking point after being responsible for the home front for the same 10 years.

I’m going to be writing a lot about this in the next week, but for now I’m going to send you to the At War Blog from the New York Times – a fantastic article by Alison Buckholtz (who wrote Standing By, a great book if you haven’t read it yet).

This is a conversation we must have.  MUST HAVE.  As Mrs. Mullen said at a recent conference, no one at the Department of Defense is even keeping track of the suicide rate or attempted suicide rate of military spouses.  If they don’t even bother to track us – how can we make sure we are getting the amount of treatment we need for our population?

We’ll talk some more – but I’d love to hear from you on this.

KSF

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A friend let me know that there was an address that her parents set up to send cards of support to Jessica – {Mis}adventures.  And thank you/  h/tip to Unlikely Wife for first getting and posting this.

Jessica
P.O. Box 292138
Columbia, SC 29229

I think that would be a great start, don’t you?  a great start to our new start.  Our new start of doing something for someone who needs a shoulder, or a hand, or a phonecall to say “hey, you ok?  you want to get together?  you want to talk?”

Do you know someone having a bad time of it right now? who may seem to be doing just fine during something that seems terribly hard? Make sure, make VERY sure, that she knows you are there, make sure that he knows you care and want to help. There’s a fine line between being there or being a pain in the butt; if it means bugging someone out of a depressed mood or a “funk”, you’ll need a flyswatter to get rid of me. It really is a matter of life or not.  As Unlikely Wife said a while ago ” I will pester, I will make sure you’re ok, and then I’ll pester again”.

KSF

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What’s with the title?  What do you mean Hell?   After all, he’s home, she’s back, we are back to our normal life, all is peachy keen, we are farting rainbows and fairy dust!  For those readers who are milspouses, you can stop grimacing/laughing/sighing now… ok, I’ll wait…..  That, however, has been the perception in the past, in both the civilian and military world.

What’s the reality?  Usually a couple of weeks of tiptoeing around each other, still in the “oh, he’s home/I’m home, I’m not going to say that this (or that, or t’other) is driving me nuts” mindset.   There’s the demolition of the walls we each build up to protect ourselves, trying to remember that this other person does live here, it’s not just R&R leave, or a visit between TDYs or schools; and remembering that we are married; how to talk to each other without waiting for the phone lag, or by Instant Message or Skype!

There’s also a let down.  Let’s be serious here, we’ve dreamed about and planned that reunion, whether it was the quiet meeting at the airport, or the big on base flags fluttering, banner waving, march in, band playing whoo hoo event; the romantic evening or the full on family dinner with everyone laughing and loving and picking up the conversations where we left off.  Whether or not these plans actually happened (and we all have the stories about not meeting where you thought, the traffic; the disaster at dinner or the kids who refused to hug the stranger that just came home), after all that adrenaline, the decompression reminds me of the day after Christmas.  Now, now, the work of re-integration starts.

Work.  Yes, it’s work to reintegrate the family unit, whether you are a couple or have young children at home.   When the first groups came back from deployments – there were no programs for anyone, and in some situations, all hell seemed to break loose.  Tanya Biank wrote about the deaths at Fort Bragg in Army Wives (the book), and there were many reports about the post deployment problems – so many that the military took notice and many post deployment programs for returning troops began to be utilized – including the Minnesota National Guard program “Beyond the Yellow Ribbon” These programs include the families, but I have heard that sometimes they are a “stand in line/check the box” exercise!  I know everyone is trying very hard to make sure that we get the help we need, but really – when a few hundred service members come back at the same time – sheer numbers will tend to clog up that system.

Now is the time we need to make sure we pay attention.  Not just to the returning service member, but to the family; to the spouse and the kids who are trying to reintegrate too.  My question here –    Individual or family counseling – which is best for you?  Do you want to talk to someone in a group,  or one on one?  Do you want someone who has “been there, done that” or do you think that a civilian counselor is actually a better fit for you?

Can we talk?

K

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