Incidents that were once kept hidden from the public by the U.S. Military concerning episodes of violence and death within our own walls, are now being revealed more often in the media because of the changes in how we globally communicate, and perhaps also because of the severity of the incidents such as the shootings at Fort Hood, Texas. A severity which many experts now attribute to the widespread untreated cases of depression in our military forces.
Why Is There So Much Depression In The Military?
Depression will affect over 15 million people in just the U.S. this year, much of which is due to high levels of stress in our lives. A major source of stress in the typical American's life is job-related stress. This is a major contributing factor to the stress of a U.S. military officer.
1. They are constantly risking their lives.
2. They are often worried about unanticipated attacks when on active duty.
3. They spend long amounts of time away from their families.
4. They worry about how their families are coping with life back home.
5. They worry about doing a good job and job performance (like many workers).
6. Like most jobs/careers, there are office politics. Some play the game and some want to avoid it.
7. There may be some personal, moral, or religious conflicts with what the job requires.
8. Gunfire, death, and war are very deflating and depressing regardless of whether it is for a worthy cause. No one walks away unaffected.
9. There is a lot of secrecy and privacy in the military. Some which is part of the job, and some which comes with wanting to protect others around them from pain, fear, etc. It is very stressful to keep secrets for a long period of time from those close to you.
While it is never easy to see such senseless death, like we've seen in the Fort Hood, Texas shootings -- if anything positive can come out of it, I must say that it has put the military and the country on alert about the state of mental health in the armed forces.
The fact that a psychiatrist committed this crime speaks volumes. Even a mental health professional couldn't get the help he clearly needed, because no one saw the signs.
1. Erratic change in behavior
2. Giving away all his belongings
3. Poor performance reviews
4. Asking repeatedly to be released from service
5. Stress after being allegedly harassed by co-workers about his religious views and ethnicity
While none of this is an excuse for his criminal acts, the signs serve as "alerts" to those paying attention that someone may be in mental distress and should be at the very least evaluated by a mental health professional.
If you or a loved one is in the military and is having a hard time during service or after coming home from serving -- then I urge you to take the 10 minutes and make an appointment with a mental health professional (psychiatrist, psychologist, psychotherapist, counselor, nurse practitioner, social worker).
Get evaluated and get talking. Talk to anyone who will listen! Staying connected to others and making sure that you do not isolate yourself, is a major step towards defeating depression in a big way.