National Alliance on Mental Illness
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Families of active service members make adjustments when their loved one is called to serve, but further adjustments are often required when the family reunites after a call of duty. A 2009 survey of veterans recently returned from combat who were referred for a mental health evaluation discovered that a sense of distance between the veteran and the rest of the family was common: Some veterans felt like a guest in their home while others felt like their children might be avoiding them.
Some families don’t reunite. The Army’s Medical Health Advisory Team surveyed married junior enlisted officers in 2008 and found that after 15 months of deployment, almost 30 percent were planning divorce or separation. According to data compiled by the Associated Press, divorce rates in the Marine Corps and Army have increased. There are fewer recent statistics about divorce rates after leaving active duty, but the National Center for PTSD cites studies of Vietnam Veterans which found that rates of divorce were much higher than among the general population. This may be related to PTSD and associated problems with intimacy or caregiver stresses.
If a veteran has returned with a disability, the family’s finances may be affected while caregivers’ responsibilities are further stretched by the complicated claim system. Yet with help, many veterans can access VA-backed loans, educational benefits, employment assistance and even educational benefits for dependents that can help get their families back on track.
Research is beginning to confirm what many families already know—partners and children of veterans can be affected by the adult’s PTSD in what is known as secondary traumatization. They may also be more likely to exhibit symptoms like anxiety and aggression.
Families, partners and children sometimes need to seek help from people who are familiar with post-service reintegration and who can help them find a new definition of “normal,” if necessary. The Veterans’ Families United Foundation has a chart designed to help veterans and their families understand “veteran readjustment behaviors,” or adaptive behaviors from active service which are now causing the veteran problems in the civilian world. The National Center for PTSD has resources for families at all stages, including the Returning from the War Zone Guide, available as a video and in a print version. By taking care of themselves they will be more able to in order to support their veteran and make use of resources that can benefit the whole family.
NAMI's Family-to-Family Education Program
Army Long-term Family Case Management
Teaching Resiliency to Military Families
PTSD and the Family
Coming Home: Adjustments for Military Families
Veterans Administration Centers for Family Support
Returning from the War Zone: A Guide for Families of Military Members
Coming Home Project
Quality of Life Project
NAMI's Child and Adolescent Action Center
The “SOFAR” Guide for helping Children and Youth cope with the deployment and return of a Parent in the National Guard or other Reserve Components
Gold Star Wives
Society of Military Widows
Comfort Zone Camp
TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors)
General Sources for Support
The American Legion
Disabled American Veterans (DAV)
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) is the nation's first and largest group dedicated to the troops and veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Veterans of Foreign Wars
Veterans Service Organizations