The Importance of Military Families

By Kristy Kaufmann is the executive director of the Code of Support Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to bridging the gap between civilian and military America. Originally published in the New York Times.

As an Army wife and military family advocate, I can say with certainty that there is no single explanation for service member suicides.

I do know this: service members come with families. If you have a broken family, chances are you’re going to have a broken soldier — and vice versa. In fact, the Pentagon and Army suicide prevention reports released last year both identified relationship problems as a leading causal factor among service member suicides.

While both reports provide valuable findings and recommendations to reduce suicides among service members, neither specifically addresses the mental health of military family members, effectively ignoring half of the problem.

War comes home. No soldier comes back the same, which means no family is ever the same. As a result, many military spouses and children are experiencing their own mental health issues.

Three Army wives I knew personally all took their own lives. Although we have no official numbers (which is part of the problem), we know from our own personal experiences that suicide attempts and completions among family members occur far more often than many realize or care to acknowledge. Suicide among service members, veterans and families is an indicator of the amount and duration of stress we continue to bear.

The fact is, even if everything in the Pentagon and the V.A. were working perfectly, the government simply does not have the resources — or culture, for that matter — to support the level of need after 10 years of war, and it never will.

Unless we develop a more holistic strategy to prevent suicide, one that effectively integrates military families and community support, we risk losing countless military and veteran families. Although service members make up less than 1 percent of the population, the rest of our society has a crucial role to play. This is America’s military. It will take a nation working together to keep us strong.

For more on this issue, check out this other articles: 1, 2

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