How can we create a community for military teens that will foster an atmosphere of positive mental health?

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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.”

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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. 



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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
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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. 

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  1. 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.
  2. Meet your buddy: I’ll invite these people to message one another and provide them with prompts to start having some healthy, casual conversations.
  3. 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.
  4. 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
  5. 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. 



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4 Comments

4 comments

  1. Anna_230

    Hi Emma. Your project looks so so good, you should be very proud! In my community, there is very little military presence, I don’t even think I can recall one person who has immediate family in the military. Because of this, I was really excited to look into your project, and peer into a community I know so little about. Honestly, I never thought about how military parents would impact their children but everything you say makes perfect sense. I think your idea of connecting military kids from all around is a really heartwarming idea. If I ever meet a someone with a parent who serves or has served, I will be sure to pass this link on!

    1. Emma_222

      Hey Anna! I’m so glad you found some value in my project and show you a new community that you weren’t before familiar with! Thanks so much for reading

  2. Madelyn_233

    Hey Emma!
    First off, I love your passion and how this project relates personally to you. Second, I’m super impressed with your graphic designs. Your statistics about the mental health of soldiers returning from Iraq really broke my heart. And then when I read Sara’s story, I actually teared up. To think that a child how lost their father in war was offered no support really shocked me.

    Have you gone through Alizae’s project yet? Alizae discussed a better way to introduce new students to her school because moving can be such a stressful time for students. I think you two could team up on one of your newsletters and focus on how military children have to switch schools so frequently. Great job!

    1. Emma_222

      Hey Madelyn! Thanks so much for such positive feedback! Also, I will definitely take a look at Alizae’s work. I would love to compare and collaborate!

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