Saturday, November 7, 2009

Stress on Army families is great, too

In much of the commentary related to the tragic killings at Ft Hood, attention has been paid to the enormous stress soldiers endure while deployed to operational areas and the difficulties of adjusting to normal life upon return. And those stresses and difficulties are very real and serious.

But let's not forget the stresses of the family members soldiers leave behind. From "Army Live," the official blog of the US Army: "Not Wanting to Let Go"

I recently came across the above picture (which I am sure many of you have seen already) of Paige Bennethum standing in formation with her father, pleading with him not to leave. Her father, Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Brett Bennethum was preparing to leave on a year -long deployment to Iraq.
Last week I attended the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Annual Meeting and Exposition and had the opportunity to sit in on the Military Family Forums. On the final day, the topic for the forum focused on the effects of extended deployments on Soldiers, families and especially the children.
The Army psychiatrist, Col. Kris Peterson discussed with Army Spouses and support groups the seriousness of repeated, lengthy deployments and the effects they are having on children.
For example, he noted that yearly mental health visits for children under the age of 15 have increased from 800,000 in 2003 to 1.6 million in 2008. One out of three school-age children are at risk for psychological problems and about 30 percent of children have significantly increased anxiety.
In an effort to deal with that trend and provide a central place for Army children to get mental and physical help, Peterson and other experts at Madigan developed the Military Child and Adolescent Center of Excellence in Fort Lewis, Washington.
The team consists of pediatricians, psychologists, social workers and child and adolescent psychiatrists whom are looking at the latest research and strategically planning the way forward for caring for Army children in addition to sifting through existing programs to find what actually works.
Many times when we think about the U.S. Army we tend to focus just on the Soldiers. We must remember that there are children all over the country like Paige Bennethum whose father or mother is/will be deployed overseas for months at a time. These deployments obviously have a great effect on the children and that is why the U.S. Army is working hard to create and development programs and centers that will assist families through those difficult times.
Military families, we want to hear from you. Let us know what you think can be done to assist families in times of deployments. Children; share your stories of how you deal with a loved one being deployed.

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