SOCIAL WORK AND MILITARY FAMILIES: DEPLOYMENT CYCLE Social Work and Military Families Catherine ONeil, Nikki Barnes, Karrie Remmer Fayetteville State University Mrs. Molly N. Williams, MSW
INTRODUCTIONSince the beginning of the war in the Middle East,military families have experienced the emotionaltrauma of deployment. For Deploying servicemembers and families, there are resources availableto help during transitions. Although the military hasfaced many challenges since the war, social work hasmade solutions to provide military families with hopeand encouragement to help them to focus on theirfamilies while loved ones are deployed, and guidethem with a foundation to build upon within theirfamilies. With many programs and services availableto the military families, they are able to use theseservices for many issues in their lives.
PROBLEM STATEDSince the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack, American troops have beendeployed almost 3.3 million times to Iraq and Afghanistan, according toDefense Department Data (Tan, 2009). It is estimated that more than 2million men and women have shouldered those deployments with 793,000of them deploying more than once (Tan, 2009). Many of the servicesmembers are National Guard and Military Reservists called to duty.
EARLY LITERATURE ON MILITARY FAMILIES Military families have been a part of the United States armed services for over the last two centuries, but military life for families has changed along with societal changes (Pryce et al., 2012, p. 120). During the Gulf War, deployment of 199-1991 came at a terrible time for military families (Baker, 2008, p. 122). This made military life a never-ending aggravation for families. Today each branch of the armed services has developed a large number of support services for families. In fact, there are many programs designed to address the needs of military families. With the help of welcome packets, a spouse, and an orientation briefing, most military families can adjust to life on a new base without many problems, especially if they have been through the process.
CHILD CLINGING TO HIS SOLDIER FATHER’S LEGWHILE HE HUGS HIS MOTHER ( WORLD WAR IIDECEMBER 1944)
CHANGES IN THE MILITARY The military is giving so much attention to the needs of family members now, because most of its history the military did not acknowledge the existence of family members at all. If an officer or soldier wanted to bring his family with him, he paid for their transportation himself. Some wives remained with their parents, seeing their husband briefly every few years. Since the 19th century, military wives and children have participated in America’s huge global military(Baker, 2008, p. 119).
MAJOR POLICY CHANGES ADDRESSING FAMILIESIn 1983, Army Chief of Staff General JohnWickman published “The White Paper- The ArmyFamily”. The covenant is the Army’s commitmentto take care of soldiers and their families, tostandardize and fund family programs andservices, provide top-quality healthcare, improvehousing, ensure excellence in schools andchildcare and expand education and employmentopportunities for families. In the past 27 years,192 changes been made towards program andservices (Sondra, 1994).
ARMY FAMILY COVENANTYou are changing your life for the Army, so itseems that a bond should be formed that letsyou know this is not a commitment taken lightly.The Army will look out for you, your soldier andyour entire family. For we are all one family in theArmy and should act accordingly(Pryce et al.,2012, p 124).
COMMON CHARACTERISTICS OF MILITARY LIFE Military members and families from all branches of the service all share certain characteristics Benefits of the military include 30 days paid vacation, healthcare, housing or housing allowances, job security, training and upward mobility Most military posts and installations have recreation facilities, churches, an exchange for household and personal tax-free purchases, package stores for alcoholic and nonalcoholic purchase, dry-cleaning services, various social clubs, mental health services and counseling, child-care centers, youth services, schools, employment assistance, beauty and barber shops and movie theaters (Pryce, et al., 2012)
COMMON CHARACTERISTICS OF MILITARY LIFECONTINUED… Brings unique challenges that everyday civilians are not faced with. Early military members were mostly unmarried; less than one- fourth enlisted (Booth et al., 2007). The emergence of married enlisted brought situations that the army had not dealt with in the past. The military family is often times relocated to other areas within the States and sometimes to other countries. They are away from their extended family members and often times feel isolated. The military member is usually working long hours and the spouse or caregiver is left to take care of the family and home by themselves. Empirical evidence shows that the strain on military families from separations, deployments, and reintegration at post-deployment is a major source of marital discord, poor parenting skills, and no communication between the family members (Blount, Curry, & Lubin, 1992)
MILITARY READINESS: AN ONGOING ISSUEThe ongoing issues of family readiness havecontinued to adapt to changing environment, andfamily programs will continue as well to servesoldiers and families and ensure missionreadiness. More than 660 issues have beenidentified and leading 123 to legislative changes(Brouker, 2011).
MILITARY FAMILIES SEEKING HELP FOR MENTAL HEALTH Variety of sources for military family members in need of mental health services The service member and family have access to counseling on the military post or installation Are also able to utilize Military OneSource and identify a list of local mental health providers and up to twelve prepaid counseling sessions can be offered to the service member or family. Military is trying to dispel the stigma attached to seeking help because of a mental health problem. Primary Barrier to seeking help is stigma. (Categorized as three different types of stigma) Public or Societal Stigma Individualized Stigma Institutional Stigma (Corrigan & Watson, 2002)
TRANSITIONAL DENSITY AND FAMILY SURVIVAL Transitional density is the term used to describe how a family can get to the breaking point. Over the course of a lifetime, a family will experience many transitions and role changes. Being separated from family due to deployments and redeployments causes more stress than an average marriage experiences. These stressors are a threat to the survival of families and sometimes the family cannot overcome the stress. The Army Family Readiness Handbook (Lee, 2002), advises that if a family can learn to utilize positive coping methods then there likely to be successful in making it through a separation. The handbook however, only has recommendations dealing with a single deployment. There are many questions about whether or not it is realistic to believe that persons shall be able to continue to cope through numerous deployments. “A deployment of fifteen months is fertile ground for divorce, as is a deployment of thirty or sixty months. Families are not meant to be separated like this.” (Pryce et al., 2012, p 134)
PRE-DEPLOYMENT, SEPARATION, POST- DEPLOYMENT & REINTEGRATION PERIODS During pre-deployment arrangements are made to get families ready while the service member is deployed. Wills and powers of attorneys are obtained and financial arrangements are made, anxiety about the unknown (Martin, Rosen, & Sparacino, 2002). During deployment spouses of the military member miss the companionship of their significant other. There is stress with having to do the day-to-day tasks and chores required to maintain the household. There are also events that are missed due to deployments like births of babies, graduations, and holidays (Martin, Rosen, & Sparacino, 2002). When the service member returns from deployment the reunion can be complicated. Some people have the unrealistic expectation that everything will be wonderful when they return home. Some feel that everything should fall back into the same routine that was in place prior to the deployment. Successful reintegration begins when everyone understands that it takes time to adjust to family changes that have occurred while the service member was deployed (Martin, Rosen, & Sparacino, 2002).
SECONDARY TRAUMATIC STRESS Secondary Traumatic Stress (STS) occurs whenever a family member or a caregiver of a traumatized person becomes indirectly traumatized (Schiraldi, 2000). Whenever STS occurs, the caregiver may even experience similar signs and symptoms of trauma such as emotional distress and sleep disturbance. Whenever a family member takes on the role of caregiver for the military member who is suffering from PTSD they end up falling into the same patterns as the one who is actually affected with PTSD. They may find themselves watching certain circumstances or people who may set them off in order to try and avoid a conflict so that nothing will aggravate or upset the veteran.
FINDINGS Much more is being asked of military families than ever before. Impact of the mental health of military spouses had not been studied until recent years. 250,626 Army wives were studied and it was determined that those who had a spouse deployed versus wives that did not, were more likely to be diagnosed with depression, sleep disorders, anxiety, acute stress reactions, and adjustment disorders(Hoge et al., 2004). The longer the deployment the greater the incidences of mental health problems (Hoge et al., 2004).
FINDINGS: CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS There are 1.76 million children and youth that are part of military families (Sogomonyan & Cooper, 2010). These children are mostly under the age of eleven and most of them come from a household that is active duty versus reserves. Children of military families may experience mental health trauma due to the stress of military life. Factors such as multiple deployments, frequent moves, and possibly having a parent who is injured or who was killed in action can be a reality that many military children face.
CONCLUSIONMultiple deployments have become a part of the newnormal in today’s armed forces. Many of the branchesof service have developed a large number of supportservices for the service member and their families.There is still a need to explore the impact thatdeployments are having on military families as well asthe service member. Also, to educate and provideawareness, resources and programs on issuesrelated to the deployment cycle and the need for wellinformed social workers and other helpingprofessionals.
HELPFUL RESOURCES Military OneSource http://www.militaryonesource.m il/ Tragedy Assistance Program www.taps.org/ For Survivors VA Caregiver Support www.caregiver.va.gov/ PTSD Support and Information Our Military Kids www.ptsdsupport.net/ www.ourmilitarykids.org/
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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This work was supported by Fayetteville State University: Department of Social Work Mrs. Molly Williams, MSW, Professor- Research Mentor