Military families are especially vulnerable to emotional and psychological problems. Although the military offers interventions at pre-deployment and deployment stages, few programs address reintegration. Because every stage of deployment affects the emotional well-being of the spouse and children of the deployed member, new recommendations are being made for measures to address all stressors that can negatively impact these family members. A team from George Mason University, Madigan Army Medical Center and Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, researched data from military spouses and youth to come up with their recommendations. They said, “Military youth are generally resilient and are able to successfully adjust to and cope with deployment related stressors. However, when stressors become chronic and adequate support is unavailable, stressors associated with the deployment cycle can lead to youth emotional and behavioral problems.” Because family members experience a torrent of emotions, from anxiety, depression, financial stress and worry, during all phases of deployment, the team believes that it is imperative that the spouse and children have interventions that address the entire spectrum of emotional overwhelm. In their study, more than half of the spouses of deployed members reported worry, sadness, anxiety and loneliness. And just under 40% reported having difficulty concentrating, sleeping and controlling anger. Depression and stress were other commonly cited mental health issues in this group. The team also noted that in previous studies, children experienced a nearly 20 percent increase in stress and over 10 percent more frequency of outpatient mental health visits. School and sleep problems were evident in most of the children as well.
The team believes that these family members should receive treatment that includes skill building techniques. “Along these lines, cognitive behavioral therapy may offer a particularly promising approach for youth experiencing emotional and behavioral health problems associated with deployment related distress,” they said. “CBT has been shown to be efficacious in facilitating youth adjustment to stressors that involve parental separation as well as addressing symptoms of depression, anxiety, and disruptive behavior.” They added that treatment should be sensitive to military culture and should be accessible and affordable to all military families.
Esposito-Smythers, C., Wolff, J., Lemmon, K. M., Bodzy, M., Swenson, R. R., & Spirito, A. (2011, June 27). Military Youth and the Deployment Cycle: Emotional Health Consequences and Recommendations for Intervention. Journal of Family Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0024534
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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