No military child should have to feel the weight of the world and the overwhelming loneliness brought on by an inability to understand how to deal with life in general--let alone military life.
Yet many military children believe that they shouldn’t need help and that they must be strong enough to handle the challenges of military life alone. And that just isn’t the case.
I know what that is like. Feeling lonely and overwhelmed and believing that no one else understood what I was going through led me to make choices that felt as though they sealed my fate. As a military kid, I couldn’t see a way out of the depression I felt and the stress and anxiety that I believed would stay with me for the rest of my life.
In 2012 I did the only thing I thought would help-- and tried to end it all.
I tried to end it all.I share this because I know that the first step in ensuring that my experience will help to bring hope to those going through what I have been through begins with talking about it.
I know that I’m not alone in this struggle and I want to stress to you all that the majority of military kids feel much like I did.
The fact is that a great deal of the military dependent community is struggling with depression, PTS, anxiety and so much more.
We struggle not because our parents aren’t involved. We struggle not because our parents don’t care. We struggle because being part of the military lifestyle means we have the extra stress of deployments, constant moves and everything else put on us in addition to our regular life.
Families aren’t taught to deal.Military families aren’t taught how to deal with the emotional strain that can go hand in hand with this lifestyle especially in the area of behavioral health.
I was aware that my family knew that military life was hard on me, but they didn’t know to what extent I would go to manage those feelings and experiences. They had no idea I would abuse prescription meds and alcohol to escape my life--which eventually became the catalyst to multiple suicide attempts.
There may be programs available to the military community but I can tell you from my experience that these programs have completely missed the mark when dealing with mental and behavioral health issues.
The fundamental flaw in the current approach.The fundamental flaw is that they approach the problem from the perspective that dependents and families in need of help will reach out for it. In reality many dependents are fearful that if they ask for help they will be letting their families down.
Likewise the family members are doing the best they can just to get through the day and don’t know that their dependent child is in crisis until it’s too late.
We need to better educate and help families by encouraging them to ask the tough questions and know the warning signs that indicate that their child is in trouble.
I wish I could tell you that more programs would help but it won’t. I wish I could tell you that more money is the answer, it isn’t. The only thing that will make a difference is to better educate parents, service members, physicians and teachers to be our first line of defense.
Living Thru CrisisThat's why I founded LivingThruCrisis. Because we need people who recognize that maybe there is more to changes in conduct or moody behaviors than meets the eye. We need people who understand the reality of our lives as military children and take action to make a difference.
We need to create a way to educate parents, doctors and community leaders on how to be aware of what’s going on and then ask the right questions. Just the act of showing that you care and trying to help will open the door for military kids to ask for assistance when they are ready to receive it.I can tell you that what we are doing isn’t enough. We need to first understand the true struggles that our military children are going through and then we must take action to reach into their community and address the problems head on. It is only then that we can bring light to a situation that has been in the dark for so long.
Editor’s note: This essay was taken from the opening remarks Geoffrey Davis gave at the 2014 Warrior Family Conference in Washington DC sponsored by MOAA and NDIA.
Geoffrey Davis cofounded LivingThruCrisis and shares his story of hope to educate and inspire the military and civilian communities. Geoffrey speaks and writes in hopes of shedding light on the growing problem of Suicide Ideation, Depression and Addiction in Military & Civilian teens.