In a time of war and heightened military preparedness, the Servicemembers on active duty, the Reserve and Guard elements that have been activated, and their families have a great deal of things to adjust to. More than ever before, with the multiple deployments, and the high level of operational preparedness, Servicemember families are looking for services to help with the stress and tension. Members are looking to the Defense Department and their own individual services for opportunities to receive services to help with the anxiety and stress.
In response to this the DoD has started taking it very seriously, expanding their counseling service efforts to both Servicemembers and their families beginning with the September 11, 2001 tragedy, and continuing with the War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan. The director of the Office of Family Policy for the Department of Defense is Barbara Thompson. We started with 9/11 to try to help with the stress on families and Servicemembers, said Ms. Thompson.
Results of these efforts from the Department of Defense on behalf of Servicemembers have been to work to form a network of services. This time is particularly a challenging one for Servicemembers and their families, said Thompson. She talked about the frequency of deployments, and that this is leading of separation between families for up to fifteen months at a time. What has been created has been a family and Servicemember assistance network for counseling and associated services. It is fairly wide spread, covering anywhere where Servicemembers are stationed, and also at home in the United States.
The DoD has been working closely with the National Mental Health Association. Together they have agreed upon certain symptoms identified as triggers, or dangerous. These symptoms include, but are not limited to: Sadness and Depression, Fear, Apathy, anxiety regarding the future, trouble concentrating, trouble making decisions, a sense of powerlessness, excessive drug or alcohol use, trouble sleeping, crying without any apparent reason, headaches and stomach problems, and other issues.
People are individuals and as such everyone experiences, reacts and processes stress and anxiety in different ways. A lot has to do with personality, and how a person normally reacts. Feelings like this from people who have had a loved one deploy are normal, but you can’t ignore them, either,? said Director Thompson. The goal of the program overall is to help the individual process their feelings and symptoms before they begin to grow or escalate out of control.