Saturday, July 31, 2010

Staying in Touch Can Sometimes Hurt Deployed Personnel

The July 30th Wall Street Journal article "Soldiers' Suicide Rate Tied to Access to Problems at Home" by Julian E. Barnes provided this very important information:
Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the vice-chief of staff of the Army who has led the effort to reduce suicides, said that 79% of suicides were soldiers who had one deployment or had yet to be deployed.

But Gen. Chiarelli said it wasn't just the stress of war that weighed heavily on soldiers, but also stresses from back home.

"For us to blame this just on the war would be wrong," he said.

Because deployed soldiers can stay in touch daily with family, they are often asked to help handle issues involving money, children and personal relationships.
I hope that the military is addressing this realization by repeatedly briefing families of deployed personnel on how they can help their deployed family members by not sharing too much and how the families can instead get help for themselves.

The article also states:
U.S. Army data also show the suicide rate is higher on forward-operating bases where soldiers have easy access to phones and computers with which to call home, and lower in more primitive outposts.

"We need to help families understand the importance when their soldiers are deployed of not dragging them back into a life at home that they have very little ability to try and fix," Gen. Chiarelli said.
While reading this article I had the unsettling feeling of knowing about this. Then I realized that my husband and I had used this situation as a subplot in our screenplay "Lt. Commander Mollie Sanders." We had imagined how powerless a sailor on a submarine might feel if he misinterpreted the message that his wife sends him.

It's not enough for the military to tell family members not to burden their deployed personnel. The military must make sure that help for families is readily available without any negative impact on the personnel.

Phyllis Zimbler Miller is the author of the novel MRS. LIEUTENANT and her social media marketing company Miller Mosaic Power Marketing works with clients to use social media to attract more business. Read her social media marketing blog.

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