In the past few years, there has been a great deal of discussion regarding mental health problems and military personnel, including the mental health support the troops receive. USA Today reported in September 2013 that mental health issues were the leading cause of hospitalizations for active duty troops in 2012, and many of these individuals were being treated for problems ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder to drug abuse. In response to this, military officials, politicians and health care providers have all been working to help soldiers who may have a mental health problem. However, one issue that has not been getting as much attention is the toll being a military spouse can take on a person’s mental health.
Recently, The San Diego Union-Tribune spoke to Liz Snell, who lives at Camp Pendleton in California with her husband Brian, who is a Marine. She explained that she began to feel depressed as a result of her husband’s deployments and was even experiencing suicidal thoughts. To help her cope with these symptoms, she sought assistance from a mental health professional and started a blog to not only help express her feelings, but to reach out to other military spouses who may also be feeling similar. Snell’s blog received a great deal of attention, and she realized that there was a need for more support resources for military spouses who are struggling with their mental health.
“Military spouses have endured supporting their service husbands through nearly 13 years of war,” Snell told the news source. “These combat and noncombat deployments have created unique challenges for military families. We have had to juggle so many aspects of life while our husbands are deployed for seven months.”
On a personal level, Snell’s husband has been deployed three times to Afghanistan and Iraq, and has also had other deployments in various countries around the world.
Creating a place for spouses
In response to this need, Snell created the Military Spouses of Strength in May 2013. When spouses go to the website, they gain access to information on a variety of professional support services as well as peer-to-peer support. This means they are able to talk to other people who may be going through the same struggles as them, and can offer advice or just a shoulder to lean on.
MSoS conducted a survey of people who use the website. Ninety-one percent of respondents said they were working to deal with their depression. Furthermore, 73 percent of them said they believed their depression was the result of their spouses’ deployments.
“This has a lot to do with the constant moving, stresses of deployment among other things,” Shannon Messer, another military wife who lives at Camp Pendleton and has benefited from MSoS, told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “I knew that I wasn’t alone in my battle with depression, but I didn’t realize it was such a huge issue among military spouses.”