Casie’s husband has not been medically diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. But his behavior mirrors the symptoms. “He still goes to work, but I don’t think anyone knows how he’s really doing,” she said. “He comes home, he drinks, he gets mad and then he loses it.”
Casie, like many military spouses, has a tremendous challenge. Without a formal diagnosis, her husband is not getting help. She feels paralyzed, afraid to contact his commander because it might hurt his career and afraid to contact his family — or hers — because it might make things worse. “My family said I jumped into marriage too quickly,” Casie said. “But this isn’t about how long I knew him. And his family, well, if he knew I talked to them, he’d kill me.”
Casie’s situation — and that of her husband — are at the heart of Ilona Meagher’s new book, “Moving a Nation to Care.” It is a comprehensive look at the prevalence and stigma of PTSD among returning veterans and a call for society to get upfront and personal about it. The book includes interviews with veterans and experts and a host of resources for help. It’s also a reminder that more help needs to be available. “There were once cultural rituals in place to help warriors when they returned,” Meagher said. “Our society has lost this.”
To get it back, Meagher believes the nation has to understand what veterans and their families are facing — then work together to find solutions. It is slowly beginning to happen. Meagher cites organizations and ongoing programs. She also offers ideas for military spouses heading down the long road paved by the consequences of combat.
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The article lists a few ways to find help and take action, and I would highly recommend having a look at those areas. A few more ideas:
Proactive reintegration ‘action ideas’ for military family/service members
Shore up your own reserves
Begin by getting professional support for yourself so that you are able to do a lot more – and do it with more success and satisfaction – for your family and for your community. Don’t be shy about this. You don’t have to have a ‘problem’ to seek out support/suggestions from a neutral and knowledgeable professional.
- Check out free counseling sources, of which there are many. Operation Comfort, for example, has a database of over 450 professionals from across the country who are offering pro-bono services.
- If there aren’t any pro-bono services in your area, add this to the list below.
- Gather with as many in your area who have similar concerns. Some organizations may already exist (like Soldier’s Heart groups), making it easy to band together to work on making your own community as prepared as possible for the needs of returning troops and their families.
Contact Mayors’ and city council offices and ask them for help with organizing community action. If they aren’t motivated, contact the following groups on your own, asking each what responses they have put in place to deal with the specific needs of military families:
- Law enforcement/emergency responders/fire stations: How will they deal with a domestic dispute if the soldier/loved one is having a PTSD episode? How will they deal with a police stand-off (some localities use more lethal force than others). Have they trained their personnel in dealing with the special situations that may arise after troops return to the community? Have they considered reaching out to military families (since they have some commonalities, they are in an especially good position to connect w/veterans) by organizing a monthly BBQ or bowling or other sporting event – or whatever else they might come up with? Veterans may want to enter these fields, and so are more inclined to accept an invite from them; this will also give law enforcement, etc. and opportunity to get to know who the vets are in their community, which may help in stemming a future PTSD episode.
- Emergency rooms/hospitals: Do they have any special care practices/emergency responses that deal solely with issues of PTSD outbursts/episodes? Have they trained personnel to know what the symptoms of PTSD or TBI are?
- Religious institutions: Have they trained their chaplains/priests, etc. to assist with the special needs of military families?
- Employers: Are they aware – and have they made their employees aware – of the need for understanding and supporting the special needs of returning troops have? Are they reaching out enough to help veterans get back on their feet?
- Art museums/galleries/music venues: Are they willing to host poetry readings, plays, concerts, shows that might appeal specifically to the military community? Art is a great tool in helping vets and their families process their experiences – it also allows them to receive some much-needed attention (and even adoration in some cases) from civilians who are naturally curious about and drawn to war stories. Perhaps tie some of these events to fund-raising to send care packages to troops who are deployed – a hesitant vet may be more willing to go out and mingle with a crowd if he/she knows that by their doing that they can help their battle buddies who are still in harm’s way.
- Community colleges: Would they be willing to create and deliver a class/section specifically teaching reintegration/coping skills to military families for free or at a reduced rate? Even an online section would be beneficial and give a worried family member access to someone knowledgeable to ask questions of, and online classmates to interact with.
- Counselors: If not pro-bono services are offered in your area, approach professionals in your area and ask them if they might consider providing such services.
- A Look at the Unease of Transitioning to Homefront Living Following Combat
- Increased Deployment Tempo Strains Military Family Ties
- Lifelines Online PTSD Video Series for Military Families
- Activities and Programming for Military Kids and Their Parents
- Do's and Don'ts List for Interactions with Returning Troops
- Military Families: Preparing for Your Troop's Return Home
- Reconnecting with Your Kids After Deployment
- DefenseWatch: Post-Deployment Stressful for Many Veterans
- Families: Recommended Reading
- Military Family Resource: MarineParents.com
- Weekend Australian: PTSD Effects the Entire Family