Helping Service Members Overcome Stress and Anxiety Challenges

By Jason Jowers, MS, MFT

Woman Sitting on Wooden Planks over water
Pexels [Woman Sitting on Wooden Planks by Keenan Constance, August 31st, 2019, CC0]
It’s a new year and many of us are getting back into the swing of things after the recent holiday break. Everyone is getting back to work prioritizing their to-do lists for the upcoming year. Many military service members and their families are doing the same. There are many great benefits to serving in the military, for service members and their families as well. Career and educational opportunities as well as fulfilling a sense of purpose.

However, as with any great opportunity, there also come many stressors that can lead to challenges with anxiety. Military service members face various stressors such as deployments, relocations, injuries, death, and many other aspects of military life. This also includes facing the mental health challenges of possible PTSD and various invisible wounds of war. And military spouses, children, and families face their own struggles with separation due to deployments, moving, changing schools, and spousal career changes.

So how can we as service professionals help and support military service members and their families in the new year when facing stress and anxiety challenges that may come along? We first must start by prioritizing mental health as much as physical health. “For instance, 19 percent of service members returning from combat in Iraq or Afghanistan reported symptoms consistent with the presence of a psychiatric disorder, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety disorder, and substance abuse. Each of those disorders can affect not only the service member but also the individuals in his or her family” (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2019). Military service members also hide mental health issues due to ongoing stigma within the military when it comes to seeking help for mental health professionals. This blog post from 2019 covers the stigma of mental health issues for men in particular.

Once we start prioritizing mental health for service members and their families, we can truly make inroads toward providing help. A great resource we found comes from Human Performance Resources by CHAMP entitled “Resources for coping with anxiety and depression.” This article includes links to anxiety and depression self-assessments, fact sheets, and info on the “Virtual Hope Box,” a multi-media coping skill app designed for individuals struggling with depression (particularly military service members).

For more information on helping service members and their families prioritize their mental health, here are a few OneOp resources and pieces of programming from over the years. Check out our Anchored podcast episode, “Walking the PATHH: Exploring the Journey of Posttraumatic Growth” as well as this blog post, “Resource Discovery: Chill Drills to Practice Mindfulness and Relieve Stress.” Finally, be sure and stay tuned through 2023 on specific webinars coming up that will address anxiety and depression issues for military families.

REFERENCES

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education; Board on Children, Youth, and Families; Committee on the Well-Being of Military Families; Kenneth W. Kizer and Suzanne Le Menestrel, Editors. (2019). Strengthening the MILITARY FAMILY READINESS SYSTEM for a Changing American Society. Retrieved from: https://nap.nationalacademies.org/catalog/25380/strengthening-the-military-family-readiness-system-for-a-changing-american-society

Human Performance Resources by CHAMP (2019). Resources for coping with anxiety and depression. Retrieved from: https://www.hprc-online.org/mental-fitness/mental-health/resources-coping-anxiety-and-depression

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