Military Spouses With Secondary Trauma Left Out in the Cold

Common Dreams staff

"In a U.S. military psychologically ravaged by 12 years of continuous war, troops' family members, like Melissa, are the victims of a hidden mental-health crisis, missing from the public calculus of the social costs of combat and systematically denied by the institution that placed their partners — and them — in harm's way."

A new investigative piece in Al Jazeera AmericaThe Military's Hidden Health Crisis: Spousal Trauma—tells how military service members bring the trauma of war home—spreading PTSD, secondary trauma, and a host of other disorders to their spouses and families. Yet the U.S. military leaves spouses out in the cold when they need mental health care. From an overburdened military mental health system that puts spouses at the bottom of the heap, to social stigma and retaliation that discourage spouses from seeking help in the first place, the wounds of war that spouses bear are systematically invisibilized. The military doesn't even aggregate data on spousal PTSD or suicide yet takes the trouble to distribute a "New Military Spouse Handbook" on how to be a "super spouse," including instructions on how to dress for military functions and write Thank You notes. These spouses never enlisted—never signed up for war—yet are expected to serve on its front-lines on the home-front without a word of complaint.

This is vital reading for anyone who wants to know more about how how war is built on the backs of majority-female populations; trauma is a social, not individual, phenomenon; and the U.S. military spreads harm with impunity. As Army wife Melissa Bourgeois says in the article, "They say you knew what you were getting into when you married him. But that's not true. The Army didn't educate me. I didn't know. And my kids never chose this."

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