Military Suicide and Military Families – Part 1
by Peter Bernstein, PhD, DAPA, MFT, CMT
The Bernstein Institute, March 8, 2012
Today I want to return to the topic of military suicide and discuss a different and sadly overlooked side to this tragedy. Yes, active duty service members and veterans are taking their lives at alarming rates, but suicide within service member and veteran families – among spouses in particular – is happening as well.
Two voices have recently spoken up about this underreported issue. Deborah Mullen, wife of former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and retired Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, delivered an address to the Military Health System Annual Conference in early 2011 on the topic. Kristy Kaufmann, wife of an Army soldier and executive director of the Code of Support Foundation (a nonprofit organization dedicated to bridging the gap between civilians and military America), published an opinion in the New York Times last November.
Both Deborah and Kristy point out that we have no accurate accounting of rates of spousal suicides within the military, due to privacy rules, and that this in itself is part of the problem. Recent studies of military suicide have excluded the mental health of military family members, “effectively ignoring half of the problem”, Ms. Kaufmann stresses.
Only anecdotal evidence exists on the numbers of suicides and suicide attempts. “Three Army wives I knew personally all took their own lives,” Kristy writes. “Suicide attempts and completions among family members occur far more often than many realize or care to acknowledge.” She adds that “suicide among service members, veterans and families is an indicator of the amount and duration of stress we continue to bear.”
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Filed under: Resources Tagged: | Air Force, Armed Forces, Army Spouse, Deployment, Depression, Iraq, Marine Corps, Military, Military Families, Military Famiy, Military Suicide, Military Wife, Peter Bernstein, PTSD, Stigma, Stress, Suicide, Suicide prevention, Veterans, War