Spouses: You are not alone



Commentary by Kelly Deichert
Air University Public Affairs


5/6/2011 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- My heart is heavy on this spouse appreciation day.

I heard some sad news on one of the military spouse blogs, spousebuzz.com. 

A contributor named Jessica was so overwhelmed by being an Army wife that she tried to take her own life. Her husband's post-traumatic stress disorder was too much for her to face, and she took a drastic step.

I've never met Jessica. She's a stranger who also is a sister, and I feel her pain today. Military spouses face the same challenges, including deployments, frequent moves and lots of paperwork. But how we handle these challenges is unique.

Most of us have struggled with being a wife or husband and turned to other spouses for guidance. But sometimes there is no one.

Many spouses of Reservists and Guard members do not have a nearby installation for support. Some are married to students and are at a base for a short amount of time. Others are from foreign countries and face language and cultural barriers.

No matter the situation, we should never let another spouse feel alone, like Jessica did. The military has increased awareness about service member suicide, but family members face their own pressures. They are often away from their families and feel isolated.

We, as spouses, need to be aware of the struggles of our brothers and sisters. We need to reach out, even though they may not reach back. In times of crisis, knowing there is someone to turn to may make all the difference.

Spousebuzz.com reports that Jessica is doing well and is recovering with her family. Her story should be a lesson for the military community. Those of us affected by suicide know the heartbreak. I still cry thinking back to that day in November 2008 when I had to tell my husband his best friend, the best man at our wedding, shot himself in Iraq. That is a pain I wish no one had to experience.

If you are feeling alone today, know that there are people at Maxwell-Gunter who can help. The Airman and Family Readiness Center has an amazing staff willing to listen and assist. AFRC also offers free workshops to help spouses deal with stress and life issues. Call 953-2353 for information.

Military and family life consultants provide confidential counseling. Call 430-4409 for an appointment. A chaplain is on duty after hours to provide help at any time. Just call 953-7333.

Technology provides a connection to other spouses we didn't have before the Internet. Many spouses blog about their experiences, showing that we are not alone. Though spouse appreciation day is one opportunity to say "thank you," we need to be aware all year round of the struggles our fellow sisters and brothers are facing.