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  • Writer's pictureMoana

Dear Military Spouse, Protect Your Mental Health

As we sit back from afar and watch these major world events unfold, it’s clear as day that we are living through a pivotal period in history. Rarely is there a historical world event that doesn’t involve our military. They are the protectors of the realm. However, for this blog I want to highlight an often forgotten group of people — their spouses.

I belong to this community and I can attest to the wide range of emotions that we feel each and every day as the uncertainty of humanity builds. Overtime you become “seasoned” as they like to call it, but in reality, we all have programed ourselves to become desensitized to the unknown. Now before you start with that “you knew what you signed up for” rhetoric, which is probably one of the most infuriating things to hear as a spouse, you need to know that what many of us go through was no where in that contract our spouses signed.

Military spouses are the forgotten group of people who remain behind and have to keep life going. Often times the feelings of uselessness step in, then fatigue from your life situation knocks on the door, and next thing you know anxiety and depression have moved in to become an unwelcome roommate in your mental space. Meanwhile, the house is falling apart, chores are mounting, and you got to keep the kids alive. From the outside looking in, I’m sure many just said “but, that’s with anyone” completely neglecting the fact that two countries are at war, and that many other isolated events are occurring that the masses don’t yet know about. We are the few who know about looming threats well before it hits the news because it’s our spouse’s time to go. That alone is hard to deal with because you cannot talk about it with a single soul due to lives being at stake. Then we log into social media and see posts like “what are we wearing to WWIII” or “we can’t let them do xyz” as if you are the ‘we’. The feeling that spouses get in our gut is indescribable because this is life or death for someone that we love and vowed to spend our lives with.

So I say this directly to my fellow milspouses, protect your mental health. We are only just now starting to research and document the mental health decline of this population. In one of the first studies conducted, 128 military spouses in 2018 committed suicide with an increasing suicide rate of 12.1 deaths per 100,000 individuals in this community. Of the 128 spouses who unfortunately have taken their own lives, 74% of these spouses had children under the age of 18. It is 100% necessary to curate an environment that is conducive to your mental health. This looks like building a support system that you trust and knowing when it's time to seek help when things get dark and scary. This support system cannot be judgmental and should be able to help you even at your worst. Friends in this community will become family if you let them. Now social media, throw it away for your sanity or bare minimum start to clean it up. Remove or hide the people with no regards to the feelings of milspouses who have to read their posts, Facebook groups who minimize your feelings, Tik Tok creators, etc etc that trigger you and start joining other communities who uplift you and help give you comfort during difficult times. When you have an environment around you that won't let you give up, you'll see that tomorrow will be a better day.

In this study mentioned above, there were six factors that emerged when spouses were interviewed. All of them resonate, however two stuck out to me even more. There was a fear of seeking mental health services and a desire for better communication about available mental health resources. If you have Tricare, mental health counseling is 100% FREE and you do NOT need a referral as long as it is for outpatient mental health services. At the time of this article, Telemedicine appointments are also available which is amazing for the spouses with children who aren't able to find childcare. All you have to do is find an in network provider that accepts your insurance and offers Telehealth appointments. At the end of this article I will link a few resources that you can read for more information.

From one spouse to the next reading this, sometimes it's more fearful to ignore your mental health crisis than it is to actually seek help. I'm rooting for you and I'm always fighting in your corner.

Resource links:

Military Spouse Advocacy Network - this link has a plethora of resources listed for military spouses.

Military OneSource for Childcare Options - think link may help you navigate getting childcare so that you may attend your mental health appointments

SAMHSA National Helpline - free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-272-8255

Military OneSource: 1-800-343-9647

American Red Cross 24 Hour Hotline: 1-877-272-7337

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