How did we get here? An introduction to mental health in the military and how I found my way to this topic:
The idea of shedding light on mental health in the military is not necessarily a new one. As a member of this community, I have been raised around some fairly nasty stigmas towards mental health. The idea stood that combat soldiers who presented concerns about their own mental health were “not fit” for battle and were sent home or were discharged. That idea is being challenged more and more, but not without a cost. Today, suicide is the number two cause of death in the military, and Dr. Thomas Britt of Clemson University says, “Although many soldiers experience psychological problems from the stressors encountered in combat, there is a lag of soldiers who actually seek help for their difficulties.”
The Heart of it All
During this research process, I wanted to make sure I stayed focused and in tune with the community I was working with. I had the great privilege to speak with two young people in my community who are children of military personnel. In sitting down with them, I learned a lot more about what the community needs and about how their lives would be different without military influence.
Not just a Jacksonville trend: Take a quick look at why this is a big picture focus
- 2011 study found, against the general population of that age group, middle school age students were more likely to experience suicidal thoughts
- There is a proven, direct connection from a study performed at the American Academy of Pediatrics that shows children aged 13-17 with parents on extended deployments experience, generally higher levels of anxiety, trouble sleeping, and declining grades [30% of military children to a 15% level in civilian comparison]
- Children of military families have a more difficult time with healthy family relationships
It All Starts Here!
Because of the ongoing pandemic, my for-now plan beginnings will stay virtual, but I am hoping to expand them in the future. This multi step process of small stepping stones, in theory, should build the foundation for a network of young people who will benefit from these connections even after their initial interactions.
- Fill out my survey: This is where you all will come in! Soon, I’ll show you the link to a survey. I’ll give you steps to invite young people you know in the military community to fill it out. Through this survey, I’ll collect data about all types of teenagers. With these results, I’ll match people with similar responses and create initial points of contact through phone or email.
- Meet your buddy: I’ll invite these people to message one another and provide them with prompts to start having some healthy, casual conversations.
- Enjoy newsletters: To anyone who expresses interest, I’ll create newsletters or share links to resources that apply to the military community as a whole through an email or phone discussion. This will bring those first small groups I’ve created together to start having ideas for open discussions.
- Invite others: In my messages, I’ll always share the link to my original survey to invite more people into these discussions. Any teenager of a military family, either active duty or retired, is welcome to fill out the survey any time to join my groups and community discussions
- Attend events: I will organize events through the email chains and small groups to have more open ended talks. These will probably start with zoom invite calls to discuss not only issues in the community but create a casual space for people to feel comfortable. Eventually, I would like to be able to host some sort of small outdoor event/ meet and greet in Jacksonville. We shall see if COVID permits it.
The goal is to create a safe and youthful space that everyone may not have in their day to day settings to talk and support one another with the idea that common ground is a great way to bring people closer.
It’s time for you to join the change!
If you are a military teen yourself, I invite you to please fill out the survey linked above. If not, please send anyone in the military community you know to that link, or to this page. I would greatly appreciate your help in making this plan a reality!
Here’s the link to pass along: https://forms.gle/r6o2e9ubF6SzJwyP7
And that brings us to the end of my work. Thank you all so much for visiting my page. Please feel free to ask any questions or share your own experiences with the military community down below.