I cannot think of a more fitting way to honor our veterans and active military members than to acknowledge the true cost of deployment on service members and their families and offer support and gratitude to them.

Imagine for a minute stepping into the shoes of the active service member. You are leaving your creature comforts and familiar surroundings behind, facing uncertainty and risk. You worry about your partner and children and how they are going to cope while you are gone. On the flip side, imagine the worries of partners and children left at home.

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, traumatic brain injury (TBI) and other mental health conditions are prevalent among returning veterans. Suicide rates among active military members and veterans are alarming. TBI is associated with increased instances of PTSD, depression and substance use disorder. The strain of PTSD and other mental health conditions related to deployment is also likely to increase relational conflict with partner and children.

Deployment really impacts the entire family. The partner that remains at home can have increased stress and mental health concerns related to deployment.

Deployment can be very stressful for the child as well. It can lead to problems in school, acting out behaviors, anger, anxiety, depression and trauma. Even the unborn child can be impacted by deployment.

The increased stress experienced by the pregnant partner of the deployed personnel may result in increased risk for medical complications with the pregnancy. One may think the stressors of deployment would only impact older children, but research also indicates an increase in problematic behaviors in very young children.

Military life itself can be a source of psychological distress for children. Consider the impact of multiple deployments, frequent moves and the impact of having a parent who suffered injury, either physical or psychological, or the death of a parent. Any one of these factors could have implications for a child, much more so a combination of these factors. This can greatly increase the prevalence of both emotional and behavioral difficulties for children.     

This may paint a grim picture but there is certainly hope in considering the impact of social and mental health supports. The good news is that children and adults can be resilient and work through many challenges, including the challenges of deployment. Support from family and friends, community, faith community and military community can play a huge role in mental wellbeing.

Another key is more structured support through mental health therapy.

So, let’s give thanks, come around these families to shower them in love and support, and connect them with the resources they need.

Important Resources

• Veterans Crisis Line provides 24/7 support for Veterans in crisis and their supporters. 1-800-273-8255, Press 1 to speak to a trained responder.

• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals. 1-800-273-8255.

• Military OneSource is a free service provided 24/7 by the Department of Defense to service members and their families to help with a broad range of concerns, including possible mental health problems. 1-800-342-9647.

• The Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury provides 24/7 information and resources about psychological health, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and traumatic brain injury. 1-866-966-1020, or e-mail resources@dcoeoutreach.org.

• TRICARE is the health care program serving uniformed service members, retirees, and their families worldwide. Visit Tricare.mil.

- Dr. Siquilla Liebetrau, clinical director, Bowen Center