MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Military Spouse Mental Health – Who are our advocates?

Sarah Ortiz Benson

In May we celebrate Military Spouse Appreciation Day, Mother's Day, and Memorial Day. May is also Mental Health Awareness Month. The military lifestyle is one of constant change and uncertainty. This alone can be a trigger for mental illness. As a nation, we are now facing unimaginable mental illness triggers as quarantines, self-isolation, and social distancing continue. Throughout this month, let us focus our attention on this issue and ask:

Who is advocating for the mental health of our military spouses?



Mental Health Facts

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a mental illness is defined as a condition which affects a person's thinking, feeling, behavior, or mood. Mental health conditions can be triggered by influences in one's environment, lifestyle, and/or develop as a result of genetics. A USO study conducted in 2018 reported military spouses expressed a lack of identity and sense of purpose. The same study highlighted their difficulty maintaining networks and support systems. In addition, military spouses felt a lack of control over their lives and expressed an inability to plan for their futures. A 2017 DOD study found that military spouses experience higher rates of stress, anxiety, depression, and unemployment than their civilian counterparts. Think about these statistics and ask:

Who is advocating for the mental health of our military spouses?

Barriers to Seeking Treatment

What barriers exist that prevent military spouses from seeking mental health treatment? There is a stigma associated with mental health disorders and a lack of knowledge regarding available treatments and resources. Some people may not even recognize they have an issue. Military spouses may have an additional fear of their condition negatively affecting the active duty member's career. Could it affect opportunities for promotion, potential for future assignments and/or duty locations? There is a fear of family, friends, and colleagues being judgmental. In order to remove the barriers to seeking treatment, we need to remove the barriers to discussing mental health within the military spouse community and ask:

Who is advocating for the mental health of our military spouses?

Changing the Mental Health Landscape

How do we change the landscape surrounding the mental health of military spouses? We can begin by supporting each other and fostering a culture of inclusiveness. Be an active part of the solution amongst our own by lending an ear, asking questions, and encouraging others to ask for and accept help. We need to increase our knowledge of available resources and share them with others. A list of free, confidential mental health resources is included at the end of this article. We have the ability to change the stigma. Let's be the voice for those who aren't able to speak by asking:

Who is advocating for the mental health of our military spouses?

No matter how resilient we are, there will always be aspects of our lives that are beyond our control. However, we need to recognize that we do have the ability to control our own identity, purpose, wellbeing, and mental health. It takes courage to ask for help and there is no shame in needing it. Military spouses have a duty to advocate for their active duty members and their families. In order to be able to help others, we must first take care of ourselves. Therefore, we must advocate for fellow spouses, ourselves, and our own mental health.

Mental Health Resources

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of hurting themselves or others, dial 911 or go to the nearest emergency room to get help immediately. Please don't let a cry for help go unheard. Included below are several mental health resources.

  1. Tricare Mental Health Information: Phone numbers for a crisis hotline and nurse advice line, as well as information on coverage, available programs and resources.
  2. Military One Source: Comprehensive list of available military and nationwide resources for a wide range of mental health conditions.
  3. National Institute of Mental Health: Information on how to find help for yourself, a friend or family member, struggling with mental health issues.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.