“He doesn’t respond to my text messages during the day, and then all of a sudden he writes to tell me he’s not coming to the movie because he doesn’t want to leave the house today,” said the military spouse I was working with at Veterans Affairs (VA).
Like so many spouses whose partners have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), she was struggling to understand why her husband was so detached and uncommunicative. She was frustrated that they weren’t doing the same sorts of activities they used to enjoy.
As a clinical psychologist-in-training, I am passionate about working to improve the lives of military veterans and their families, particularly those who are struggling with PTSD following deployment. I originally planned to study psychology to help people cope with upsetting emotions or difficult changes in their lives, but when I started I did not yet know that I would discover a special place in my heart for military families.
I’m especially aware of the daily sacrifices military families make for our country, and am thankful for all they endure and all they do to protect our nation. Unfortunately, as you’re all too aware, those sacrifices can extend from the logistical (communication blackouts, frequent relocations) to the emotional and psychological (PTSD, depression).
That’s why I believe the psychology community has a responsibility to learn as much as we can about couples struggling with PTSD following deployment. We should then take that knowledge and put it into practice to help military families who have been hit hard by post-traumatic stress.
As the media devotes less and less attention to the challenges of military families, it seems to me that now is the perfect time for my field to pick up the slack and devote new energy and resources to understanding and aiding military families.
I designed my dissertation study to address this need and specifically gather information from military service members and their spouses. I want to know what goes on in the day-to-day lives of military couples in which the service member suffers from PTSD.
Once my study is complete, I plan to use the information it provides to inform prevention and intervention programs for military couples. I hope that the end result is that behavioral health providers can be as effective as possible when working with families affected by combat-related PTSD.
Here’s where you come in. If you or another military couple you know has been affected when the service member in the couple suffers from combat-related PTSD, I’d love it if you’d participate in my study.
As a way of saying thank you, couples who complete the study can receive up to $125 per couple. Interested couples can learn more about the study and see if you qualify at tinyurl.com/RenshawCouplesStudy.
Please note: due to study recruitment restrictions for this particular study, I am only able to invite heterosexual, single military, male service member/female partner couples at this time. I firmly believe that female service members, male spouses, and same-sex couples all have voices that very much deserve to be heard, and I look forward to including those of you that fit those criteria in future studies.
Whether you choose to participate in the study or not, I’d like to thank you for your service!
Sarah Campbell is doctoral student at George Mason University. Her research focuses on the influence of the interpersonal environment on PTSD, with a focus on combat veterans in particular, and couple processes more broadly.
U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Cody H. Ramirez.