Posts Tagged Military Spouse
By Lisa Daniel
Sept. 27, 2012
As the Army conducts its worldwide standdown for suicide prevention today, there is something family members militarywide can do, too, and it only takes a minute. Get out your smart phone and enter the information for the Military Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 Press 1, militarycrisisline.net, or text at 838255.
All calls are confidential and they are taken by trained counselors. So even if you’re unsure if someone close to you may be suicidal, you could at least talk through the situation with someone who understands and could share insight. And in the terrible possibility of an emergency, you won’t be searching for a number to call.
Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III ordered the stand down in response to increasing soldier suicides, but noted it is a broader societal problem. “Ultimately, we want the mindset across our force and society at large to be that behavioral health is a routine part of what we do and who we are as we strive to maintain our own physical and mental wellness,” he said. Read more here.
As the Army stands down, I’m thinking of the families who struggle every day with the possibility of suicide. I’m thinking of the mother who makes daily calls to check in on her son, the wife who left her husband out of concern for their children after he attempted suicide, and the man who removed firearms from his brother’s house out of fear he would use them against himself. All bear unimaginable stress from the daily fear that a loved one will take his or her own life.
I’m also thinking of the families for whom the recent focus on suicide prevention came too late, for those who will forever think about how they may have missed signs leading up to a suicide.
I’m thinking of the Army family I knew who lost their only daughter to suicide when she was just 22. I knew Candace as the girl across the street, an outgoing and bubbly high school student who dreamed of being a pediatrician. She was a good student and an athlete and when she wasn’t studying or running, she spent many hours at my house playing with my son while I worked, often refusing payment, she said, because she so enjoyed playing with the baby. It was clear she had a gift with children and I marveled at what the future would hold for her.
My family moved away after a couple of years and Candace went away to college on scholarship, like we all expected. We lost touch after a while and somewhere in the next four years, Candace’s life got off track from what she had planned. At some point, she lost hope and took that awful step that has been called the permanent solution to temporary problems.
Eight years have passed and I still see Candace’s bright smile in my mind and wonder what could have been for her. Coping with any death is hard, but families and friends of suicide victims have the added torment of trying to understand how their loved one came to their decision and if they could have stopped them, if they missed the signs. More than a hundred Army families are coping with the suicide of a soldier this year and no doubt many more are dealing with another family member having taken their own life.
As Secretary Leon Panetta and other DOD leaders have said, understanding suicide and reversing its rising trend is hard; General Austin called it his toughest enemy. No training or information campaign will end all suicides. But today’s standdown hopefully will go a long way in helping people recognize the warning signs in a potentially suicidal person and, most importantly, it will elevate the conversation out of the darkness of being a taboo topic.
By Lisa Daniel
Sept. 5, 2012
Military leaders all the way to the commander in chief are drawing attention to the importance of good mental health and putting resources into programs to help veterans, service members and their families. Read more.
But when it comes to recognizing and treating mental health problems, such as depression, spouses are the first line of defense, some treatment professionals say.
“The spouse knows the patient better than I do; they’ve been living with them for years,” Dr. James Bender, a clinical psychologist with the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, told me today. “They’re kind of at the front line of this.”
Symptoms of depression can be subtle and hard to detect, said Bender, a former Army captain and an expert on stress and post-traumatic stress disorder. “Feeling sad or having a depressed mood is only one of the symptoms of depression,” he said.
Other signs of depression include:
– Trouble concentrating;
– Changes in eating and sleeping – either too much, or barely at all;
– Anger or irritability;
– Low sex drive;
– Social withdrawal; and
– “The hallmark symptom” of losing interest in activities he or she used to enjoy.
“He may be lying on the couch watching TV all the time and gaining weight,” Bender said.
Sometimes there is one traumatic event that triggers depression, making symptoms more sudden and easier to identify, Bender said. “But usually it’s a cumulative effect that gets a little worse day by day, and sometimes the spouse just gets used to it.”
Indeed, Bender said, “I’ve had patients who have been depressed and didn’t really know it.” Read the rest of this entry »
By Lisa Daniel
When First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden started the “Joining Forces” campaign 15 months ago, they did so with the goal of creating impactful and lasting health, education and employment support for military families.
The campaign had two significant achievements this week that its director, Navy Capt. Brad Cooper, told me hit both of those marks.
First, North Carolina became the 26th state to pass a law making it easier for military spouses to transfer their professional licenses. (Read more.) South Carolina and Hawaii passed similar laws in recent weeks, potentially affecting tens of thousands of military spouses, Cooper said. With similar legislation pending in California, Ohio and New Jersey, the campaign is “exceeding our expectations” in getting laws passed in all 50 states by the end of 2014, he said.
“As I take step back and look this – and my dad was an Army officer – this signals a pretty remarkable cultural shift,” Cooper said. “I remember my mother — as well as my wife, spouses of my friends — were reluctant even to indicate they were military spouses” to prospective employers, he said.
Second, the National Association of Social Workers, at its annual convention here this week, announced it is launching a free, online training course for all social workers to better understand the unique needs of military families. It also is providing a set of standards for working with veterans and military families, and is creating a professional Credential for Social Work with Veterans and Military Families. (Read more.)
Social workers are considered the nation’s frontline mental health services providers, and they practice in every county in the country. The NASW represents 650,000 of them. Its pledge to Joining Forces follows that of the four largest nursing associations, representing 3 million nurses, and the Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, with 105 and 25 schools, respectively, in training doctors to serve military families and veterans. The Association of Marriage and Therapy Therapists also has signed on, as well as associations representing psychiatrists, psychologists and surgeons.
“This really represents, to me, not just the impactful piece, but the sustaining piece,” Cooper said.
Spouses’ and veterans’ employment also has made major strides, Cooper said. More than 2,000 companies have signed on already hiring 25,000 spouses and 65,000 veterans, and pledging to hire another 175,000 in the next two years, helping bring down the veterans’ unemployment rate, he said.
“This really is the largest outreach and advocacy efforts we’ve had on behalf of veterans and their families for years,” Cooper said.
Joining Forces has been successful, he said, because “we’ve been able to breach through years and years of bureaucracy and bring people together and focus them on the effort.” All they needed was leadership and direction, he added.
“People, generally, want to be helpful,” Cooper said. “They don’t always know what they can do. Our objective is to steer them to meaningful action.”
Joining Forces’ efforts have caught the attention of military spouses.
Posted by ldaniel in Uncategorized on July 2, 2012
By Lisa Daniel
The Defense Department is working to “fundamentally transform” the nation’s understanding of the invisible wounds of war, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has said, and nowhere is that more apparent than at the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological and Traumatic Brain Injury.
DCoE is out in front on recognizing psychological problems among service members and recently began reaching out to military members and their families through social networking.
One event, now common in military family life — that also can be largely misunderstood — is a service member’s redeployment home. Public Health Service Lt. Cmdr. Dana Lee, a licensed clinical social worker in reintegration and deployment health at DCoE in Silver Spring, Md., recently took part in a Facebook chat with families about how to give service members a smooth transition back into their home life.
People often have unrealistic views of how a redeployment will be, Lee told me in a follow-up interview. “A lot of people think of it as a series of positive events,” she said. “You’re reunited with your family and friends, you’re going back to your favorite restaurants and activities.”
But returning to the routine of home life after war also can be a “period of extended stressors,” she added. “There are expectations that come with coming back. When you’re deployed, you’re focused on mission completion. There are different routines at home.”
A lot of things happen in the months that a service member is away, Lee explained. The kids have grown and changed, maybe the house is different, there may be a new car, and the couple’s relationship may have changed. Read the rest of this entry »
By Lisa Daniel
Lori Volkman was in college when she confronted what some would approach as an either-or situation: marry the Navy pilot she’d fallen in love with, or head for law school for the career she was passionate about.
Volkman had grown up in a Navy family and she knew she couldn’t have it both ways – at least not at the same time. “I knew exactly what was involved in that,” she told me when we spoke on Monday.
Not only would frequent relocations prevent her from practicing law, “I didn’t even know if we’d be anywhere long enough for me to finish law school,” she said. “I knew as Navy brat that there was a very real possibility of having only two-year duty stations.”
So Volkman and her husband came to an agreement: he would leave active duty for the Navy reserves, and she would go to law school.
Volkman, the deputy prosecuting attorney for Clark County in Washington state, says she is both fortunate and atypical of military spouse lawyers. “I’m one of the few who have enjoyed working in the same place for 12 years,” she said.
Just over a year ago, Volkman signed on to helping other military spouses pursue their careers in law after Erin Wirth, a federal administrative law judge and Coast Guard wife, asked her to join her and Mary Reding, another military spouse attorney, in starting The Military Spouse JD Network. Wirth had moved seven times in 15 years, and sometimes did not relocate with her husband, to maintain her law career even when it meant taking jobs below her experience level, Volkman said. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by ldaniel in Uncategorized on May 21, 2012
By Lisa Daniel
May 21, 2012
Exciting changes are underway for military spouses that could affect families who serve for generations to come.
It used to be, in the not-so-distant past, that a decision to marry into the military was a decision to not have a career of your own. Even if a spouse could juggle the demands of military home life plus a paid position, who would hire her (95 percent are female, according to Defense Department figures) knowing she would be gone in a couple of years due to a forced military relocation? And how would she even get to the point of applying for a job if she had to renew her professional license – nurse, teacher, realtor, therapist, just to name a few with such requirements — in every new state?
Through the work of DOD’s Military Community and Family Policy office and Michelle Obama and Jill Biden’s “Joining Forces” campaign, 16 states have passed laws to improve professional license portability and another 11 have legislation pending. Also, DOD’s Military Spouse Employment Partnership last week added 34 employer “partners” for a total of 128 that post jobs on the site specific to military spouses. As part of the program, the employers – CACI, General Dynamics, Dell, Microsoft, American Red Cross, GEICO, and Sterling Medical are just a few — agree that their positions can move with hired spouses.
The catalyst for change has been the spouses themselves who spoke up about the need. Indeed, DOD officials say 85 percent of military spouses have responded that they either want or need a paid job. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by in Family Matters on October 31, 2011
Guest blogger Karen Nowowieski is the founder of “Work It!” — a home business that provides free style makeovers to service members transitioning out of the military. This former soldier and current Defense Department civilian has offered to share her fashion know-how with Family Matters readers through a series of guest blogs. In the coming months, she’ll cover everything from appropriate interview and work attire to what to wear on a date or girls’ night out.
By Karen Nowowieski
When did YOU decide to give up? This morning? Last week? Last month? For me, it was when I gained about 30 pounds in a week (seriously!).
Now, I did grow up heavy, and I’ve been this heavy many other times, but this time was different. I suddenly didn’t know how to dress this new body. I had bigger EVERYTHING. No more button downs — my top region made sure of that. Pencil skirts, even with the strongest shapers possible, still made me look like 10 pounds of sausage in a 5-pound casing – not so hot.
So rather than dress the body I had, I covered it up in as many shapeless muumuus as I could find. I called these “dresses” my work uniform. Every day was a “bad scale” day (my husband’s term), and trying to stuff my body into my smaller clothes was so depressing, I’d have to eat a pack of Ho-Ho’s just to get through it. But one day I said, “No more.” So with chubby arm raised and with an Amazonian scream, I attacked my closet.
No more trying to be something I wasn’t (a size 6) and being unhappy with the body I had to work with. I cut a swath through that closet a mile wide. No more pretty clothes in the wrong size to smirk at me in the morning as I desperately tried to find something to wear. Out went those pants with the stapled hem, the bra that never fit right and any underwear older than my children (both 12) — right in the garbage.
I felt energized, powerful and strong. I knew that I could go forth and shop, secure in the knowledge that everything going back into that closet would never smirk at me again. Eleanor Roosevelt said it best. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” That goes for your clothes, too!
So, say it loud and say it strong: “I will no longer be bullied by my wardrobe!” Grab some garbage bags and ATTTTAAAACCCCKKKK!!!!!!
Have a fashion question for Karen? Post your comments or questions on the Family Matters blog or email them to Elaine.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted by in Family Matters on August 31, 2011
Guest blogger Donna Miles is a colleague of mine at American Forces Press Service.
By Donna Miles
Aug. 31, 2011
It’s hard enough being the spouse of a fallen service member, or a veteran declared 100 percent disabled.
But for many of these spouses, well-meaning federal rules that gave them up to two years after their loved one died or became disabled to take advantage of special hiring authorities for government jobs just wasn’t enough.
Too often, two years was too little time before they were ready to enter the workforce. Many were still grieving or were preoccupied with the challenges of caring for their children or disabled spouses during this difficult time. Others were enrolled in educational or training programs to prepare them for new careers to support their families.
Officials at the Office of Personnel Management recognized the problem, and moved today to make things right.
OPM published final regulations today that give these spouses as much time as they need to apply for a federal job under the military spouse noncompetitive hiring authority.
That authority, which has been in effect since Sept. 11, 2009, allows qualified spouses who aren’t already federal employees to apply directly to agency job opportunity announcements, without having to compete with other applicants.
This could prove to be a big deal in helping more spouses benefit from the hiring authority designed to help them when they need it most. The first quarter the hiring authority was launched, only 58 spouses took advantage of it. Between October 2009 and October 2010, 887 military spouses were hired under the program.
OPM Executive Director John Berry is hoping the new final regulations will help more spouses by bringing them into the federal workforce.
“Military spouses make countless sacrifices for our nation through their dedication and support on the home front while their loved ones are serving,” he said. “In recognition of their sacrifice, this rule will help military spouses find employment in the government.”
Posted by in Family Matters on July 14, 2011
A buzz filled the air as military spouses and veterans gathered to welcome a world-famous military couple to Sony Pictures Studios’ Stage 15 in Culver City, Calif. Prince William and his wife, Catherine, had decided to make a military spouse and veteran hiring fair the final stop of their whirlwind West Coast tour last weekend.
I watched from a riser as the royal newlyweds walked in to resounding applause, my view momentarily obstructed by a sea of camera-equipped smartphones and iPads held high by people eager to capture the moment.
They walked onto the stage and the Duke of Cambridge, also a search and rescue pilot in the Royal Air Force, addressed the crowd of more than 1,500 spouses and veterans and about 160 employers.
This event is about more than men and women in uniform, he said. “It is about our other halves — the half that makes the loved one’s duty and sacrifice possible and worthwhile. It is about you.”
The minute the royal couple left, spouses and veterans got back to the business at hand — finding a job. The fair, sponsored by ServiceNation: Mission Serve, the U.S. and Los Angeles Area Chambers of Commerce, and the Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry, was the largest of 100 spouse and veteran hiring fairs slated to take place across the country over the next year.
Spouses and veterans quickly crowded potential employers’ booths, resumes and pens in hand. I randomly picked a few out of the crowd to interview and was instantly impressed at their credentials. I spoke to spouses with master’s and doctorate degrees, and to veterans with extensive experience leading people and managing equipment.
One attendee I spoke to, Melissa Burton, an Air Force veteran and now an Air Force spouse, said she would like to bring both her education and Air Force experience to bear.
“It’s a great thing to find companies willing to work with us,” said Burton, who recently earned her master of business administration degree and whose husband is stationed at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif. “I lived in Okinawa for a few years, and it was hard; it took me about a year to find a job. I’m looking forward to what this day will bring me.”
The employers seemed just as eager to connect with the job seekers. Spouses and veterans have the skills they need, many told me, from flexibility to punctuality to organizational expertise.
Ross Cohen, director of ServiceNation: Mission Serve and a military veteran, called veterans and military spouses “civic assets” who possess an “extraordinary set of skills and experiences.” Employers need resourceful and reliable employees, and veterans and military families are just that, he said.
“The bottom line is companies and nonprofits and government should be recruiting veterans and military spouses not because it is the right thing to do for the country, but because it is good for business,” he added.
For more on the hiring fair, see my American Forces Press Service articles, Royal Couple Visits Spouses, Veterans at Job Fair and Veterans, Spouses Laud ‘Hiring Our Heroes’ Job Fair.
For spouses who would like to explore employment opportunities and connect with employers, visit the Military Spouse Employment Partnership website.
Posted by in Family Matters on June 14, 2011
Vivian, a Navy veteran and spouse, regularly guest blogs for Family Matters and shares her experiences as a spouse of a sailor and a mother of two. Her husband, a Navy lieutenant, recently returned from Iraq and she has two boys who, she says, “enjoy peanut butter, trucks and air shows.”
Luckily my husband isn’t as high maintenance about Father’s Day as I am about Mother’s Day. As in, he truly means it when he says, “Don’t get me anything.”
Mike honestly is happy with a nice breakfast (French toast) and working in the yard with his two helpers to celebrate. However, I still quest to find inventive, personal gifts to show him how much we appreciate him. Unfortunately, finding “the perfect gift” usually means it comes down to the wire, leaving me searching into June.
Knowing that some of you might be in the same boat — still looking for that elusive perfect gift — here is a list of goodies that the man in your life might appreciate:
For the outdoorsman:
– A tent or other camping supplies. Here in Virginia, as part of the year-long celebration of the 75th anniversary of Virginia state parks, Gov. Bob McDonnell just announced that all active-duty military, as well as veterans residing in the state, will receive free admission to all Virginia state parks. Look around your own state and see if there are any special deals for military families. Just don’t forget the insect repellent!
– Anything to do with your yard or home projects, such as a small composter, a new sprinkler head, tool set or car accessory. If you get overwhelmed, go with a gift certificate so he can go pick it out for himself. Part of his present can be time alone to wander the aisles dreaming up new projects. Keep in mind that some home-improvement stores now do military discounts year-round. Just remember to ask when you get to the check-out line!
For the easy-to-please:
– Something specific to their hobbies or interests. Do they golf and need a new club, bag or nifty set of tees? What about fishing? Tickets to a professional or collegiate event are always a winner. Do they have a favorite team? What a great thing to have to look forward to if they are deployed — time spent together cheering on their favorite athletes, musicians, race car drivers or ultimate wrestlers. If you can make it a date night, even better!
– Anything homemade or personalized. Cards, books, mugs, barbecue aprons, T-shirts or ties — everything is a little more special with handprints, quotes, drawings, branch-specific emblems or hand-drawn pictures from his favorite people. And, a plethora of online boutiques make it so easy for you. Customize their templates or come up with your own. Either way, Dad will treasure your from-the-heart gift!
For the tech-savvy, traveling dad:
– Sound-reducing headphones. Long train, plane and bus rides en route to deployment can be made the tiniest bit better if Dad can block out some of the snoring, talking and general background noise around him. Plus, their cases are perfect places for last-minute love notes to send with him on deployment!
– A good alarm clock with must-have fun gadgets attached. The perfect battery-powered alarm clock to take overseas or on deployment is a must, but very hard to find. If it can rotate digital pictures, tell the temperature, or put him to sleep or wake him up with a variety of sounds, it gets bonus points for awesomeness. If you do find one, please report back so the rest of us can get one next year!
Whatever you get him, whether it be sentimental, practical, or anything in between, whether you have to mail it to an APO address or sneak it into the kitchen to present during breakfast, or whether it cost you a month’s paycheck or not, the real value of the thoughtful gesture of love to the special man in your life lies in the meaning you have created as a family and in the desire to express the love you feel toward each other. Meaning – it will be perfect, whatever you end up choosing. No, really, it will! Happy Father’s Day