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Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Category

Today is the 2nd PTSD Awareness Day. I didn’t know there WAS such a thing, until I checked a site I go to periodically. I remember when these conflicts started PTS (I don’t use the D, I’ve had friends and family ask me not to use it, they aren’t “disordered”!) wasn’t even an acronym in our lexicon.  I remember the terrible stories out of Ft. Carson and Hood, Bragg and Benning, about the servicemembers who were suffering from anger outbursts, the murder suicides of families, the depressions and the stories of self-medicating drunken stupors.  I remember reading about various military hospitals and commands who were frantically trying to re classify soldiers as having a pre-existing condition and releasing them with “other than honorable” discharges. I remember hearing from a family member of his experience, being handed a huge bottle of Prozac and told to come back when it was empty – no counseling offered.

What a change a few years makes.  Gen. Chiarelli talks about PTS, TBI and suicides every chance he gets; high ranking officers and NCOs talk frankly about their own PTS and how they sought help and got it.  They are trying really hard to do away with the stigma, and make the seeking of help for a mental health condition into a right and strong thing to do.  That’s a huge change!

We keep hearing about resiliency training, about new therapies from acupuncture to canines (hey, what about felines!), cognitive therapy, exercise, yoga, meditation, counseling – every week there is another study.  You and I know people with such a diagnosis – I’ve seen huge strides being made, but I know that there is much more to be done.  I’m encouraged that the treatments include not only the soldier, but also the family!

So, to paraphrase Rep. Moran, it’s great that there is such a day… but maybe it isn’t.  I wish we didn’t need this, I wish we weren’t confronting this every day.  But I am glad we aren’t hiding it anymore, that our community has realized that sweeping it under the rug and tossing out those injured in this way is not the right thing to do.

KESF

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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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There are worries in the military family sphere, now that the celebrating is over. Because no matter how good this news was, the wars aren’t over.

The incredible work done by our intel services, (hooah MI) the other intel agencies, the SEALS and their families – we celebrate their heroism, their perseverance and their guts.

We’ve all been relieved that Osama bin Laden is dead, and there have been celebrations at Ground Zero and Lafayette Park in front of the White House. As I said last night, normally I don’t celebrate death of anyone – but I’ll make a definite  exception for this one, a sentiment I’ve heard from quite a few people.

I’ve been chatting with some of my milspouse friends in various venues, and we are all worried.  Not just the repercussions of this, the vengeance attacks that we dread, especially those of us with spouses or loved ones downrange.  We are also wondering how soon it will be before the questions start.

“So, guess he won’t have to go to Afghanistan now, huh?”

“So, what are you guys going to do now that we don’t have any wars going on?”

“Aren’t you glad it’s all over now?”

But it isn’t.  It isn’t over.  Yes, one mad evil man is dead.  But his group is still there, hasn’t needed his hands on guidance since he was driven into the mountains.  The splinter groups are still doing whatever they do, without his leadership.  The Taliban is still sending 12 year old children into crowds with strapped on bombs.

We’ve already seen the compassion fatigue – the “how long do you need something” attitudes from some civilians.  As our families continue to deal with deployments or redeployment,  with the effects of absence on families, with the drain on their strength; support will still be needed.  Are we going to hear the  “it’s over, so shut up and go away”?  Our families can’t just pack up and go on their merry way.  We have to go on.  We need support.

It’s Not Over.

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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There was a segment on Tell Me More yesterday, about the new Blue Star Families  PSA concerning suicide and in memory of Clay Hunt, a member of IAVA and decorated Marine who recently committed suicide.  It was a great piece.  But unfortunately on the site a couple of comments were posted, that are making some of us grind our teeth.  Someone who posted as Penny Lane put this out… [warning, you might want to throw something at your computer]

I, for one, am tired of being made to feel guilty and ungrateful.

I didn’t ask for the wars and I didn’t ask to have my tax dollars spent on the military machine. I didn’t walk around with signs saying “Invade Iraq” just because we can.

Why don’t you go to Crawford, Texas and talk to the man who decided we needed to avenge his daddy?

*************
Almost 10 years of solid war, and on more than two fronts.

What else were we expecting?

Time to decrease the military. We can’t afford it, on any level. It does not keep us safer. It actually increases our risk of being attacked.

Thank you for your service, but you volunteered.

Young people kill themselves every day, without experiencing the horror of war. I don’t know how you can claim to be different or special.

Now then… a friend of mine wrote a wonderful rebuttal at her blog – Smurfoflauge Cafe      here’s a brief segment of her response to Penny Lane (but I really recommend that you go over and read the whole thing)

We are asking that you STOP and do not callously cast aside those who work to fulfill American’s choices about our conduct with other nations. We ask you to stop using, “You volunteered” as an excuse to disregard us and our efforts to make this country better. We ask you to stop and listen to servicemembers, veterans and their families and try to understand the true costs of the war you have voted to engage in. We ask you to help us get the medical and mental health care we need and failing that, at least be kind. It is the smallest task to at least show you care enough about our Nation to be engaged in what you as a citizen have chosen and enacted.
Words hurt. Telling someone that they don’t deserve to have support from the American people, even minimal support in the form of medical and mental health coverage, is tantamount to spitting in military families faces. It’s saying that you are more than happy to use them up and then cast them out and step on them like the dust under your feet as soon as they are no longer physically or mentally able to serve your whims. It is the gravest of all insults and suggests that at least a large segment of the American people have forgotten that citizenship isn’t all about the right to watch American Idol while eating french fries, it’s about being responsible for choosing this Nation’s future and then acting upon those choices.

Military families are hurting, we are exhausted from multiple deployments, we are terribly proud of our spouses, we are proud of being military spouses.  But we’ve been doing this for 10 years.  We are the 1 percent, who don’t deserve to be scorned or told “you volunteered” so suck it up.

We aren’t talking about getting a discount at a store, we aren’t talking about someone paying for a coffee – we are talking about our family members committing suicide!  We are talking about our families disintegrating, about the despair that is driving too many of us to over medicate ourselves; and we are talking about reaching out and giving a person a hand or a shoulder.

Being treated with the scorn that Penny Lane decided to heap on, to know that she did that on a link to a radio show with the mother of Clay Hunt, is frankly stunning to me.  I assume that Ms. Lane (?) wouldn’t show that level of disrespect to anyone who had lost a child – so why WHY did she feel she could do this, should do this, to a dead Marine’s mother, to a veteran or a military spouse?  I have no idea – but I think she owes everyone on that show an apology.

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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