Suicides among service men and women in the United States are at an all-time high, but the stress of deployment doesn’t just affect those serving their country, it also impacts those they leave behind.
Dr. Adrian Blow, a professor of human development and family studies at Michigan State University, has studied mental health in service members and their families for more than a decade and said deployment takes a toll on everyone in a family.
“The pressure of deployment, it changes everybody,” said Blow.
While technology has made it easier than ever for those stationed in a foreign country to connect with their loved ones in the states, the lack of face-to-face interaction can slowly cause those back home to grow apart.
Many times missing out on significant events for their children and seeing loved ones take different roles in the household.
According to Blow, this often leads to both the service member and their loved ones struggling to re-adjust to each other, sometimes triggering mental health challenges like depression and anxiety.
“Everybody grows, everybody changes, when you’re fighting a mission you’re changing, but when you’re staying at home, if you’re a spouse or significant other staying at home, you’re changing as well,” Blow said. “You’re doing different roles and different duties involved.”
According to a report from the Department of Defense, service men and women die by suicide at alarming rates.
The rates for those serving on active duty, in the reserves, and in the National Guard are all significantly higher than the general population.
The report shows the risks stretch to their loved ones as well.
There were 186 reported suicide deaths among military spouses and dependents in 2017.
The reports show the suicide rate was significantly higher among male family members than female family members.
The suicide rate for male spouses was 29.4 per 100,000 people compared to 9.1 for female spouses.
“Coming back post-deployment and reintegrating into a family is a stressful process because everyone has changed during the course of a deployment so people almost have to get to know each other again,” Blow said.