October is National Depression Education and Awareness Month

| October 6, 2011 | 0 Comments

James W. Cartwright
U.S. Army Public Health Command

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — Separation from a loved one who is deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan can be an emotionally difficult time for all family members.

Emotions can vary from low-energy levels and feelings of sadness and anger, to excitement and restlessness, back to tension, frustration, resentment and depression.

Many challenges confront military families during deployments. It’s important to recognize and understand these challenges to effectively cope with separation during deployment.

A common pitfall is arguments prior to deployment. These arguments are generally the result of distress due to the upcoming separation. Families must realize this distress and try not to take these arguments too seriously.

Another pitfall is failure to discuss expectations regarding child-rearing, financial management or intimacy concerns. These issues sometimes can be a source of misperception, distortion and hurt feelings during deployment. Families should not wait to attempt to resolve these major pitfalls via long-distance communication.

Another pitfall is listening to or spreading rumors. Do not repeat rumors.

For example, one family readiness group member passing on allegations of infidelity about another FRG member can cause a great deal of psychological damage to individuals identified in the rumor, as well as to other Soldiers, family and FRG members, and unit cohesion.

Avoiding these pitfalls will ensure that the stress and depression related to deployment separation will be much more manageable.

Soldiers and family members must recognize deployment-related stressors that impact them during separation and develop strategies to cope with these stressors.

October is National Depression Education and Awareness Month, an opportune time to discuss the impact of deployment-related stress.

Avoiding deployment-related depression, anxiety

The following pre-deployment tips may help ease stress levels before and during deployment.

  • Discuss expectations for managing finances, children and personal conduct before deployment.
  • Expect changes in departure and return dates.
  • Accept growth and change in all family members.
  • Reserve disagreements for face-to-face encounters with your spouse.
  • Put existing and unresolved marital issues on hold until your Soldier returns home.
  • Communicate regularly and creatively with your Soldier. End communications on a positive note.
  • Keep the Soldier’s parents informed.
  • Plan for family stress relievers like fun outings and group get-togethers.
  • Plan opportunities for the at-home parent to get breaks from children to revive emotional and physical health.
  • Encourage family members to share feelings and give assurances.
  • Honestly discuss the Soldier’s deployment. Share information about the Soldier’s work and what the parent is doing for our country.
  • Answer questions openly and honestly, using words children can understand.
  • Provide a calendar or some measure to help children count down the deployment days.
  • Maintain a structured and safe emotional and physical environment for children.
  • Make sure the deployed parent is part of everyday conversations.
  • Help children understand what they hear and see in news reports.
  • Follow your child’s lead. Give small pieces of information at a time and see how your child responds before deciding what to do next.
  • Provide children with a method to communicate to the deployed parent, such as letter writing or email access. Make it creative and fun.
  • Maintain family routines and traditions during the other parent’s absence.
  • Keep children involved with outside activities and maintain communications with schools.


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Category: Community, Health

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