Lost at Sea: Depression in the Military

By Sandra SchreinerNovember 23, 2015

Join the military. See the world and open the doors to more amazing opportunities than you can imagine. Be a hero and make your family and friends proud.

The media and military recruiters that walk into high schools make enlisting seem like a glamorous adventure. While it is an amazing experience that I’m so glad to be a part of, there’s a lot they might not tell you right away.

I am a sailor in the United States Navy. I’m new though. I’ve been in for about a year, and my first command is shore duty. When I get out of work every day I get to go home to my beautiful fiancée and cats and don’t have to worry about being away from them too much. But every day, countless soldiers and sailors out at sea and in other countries face the difficulties of being away from their loved ones. Whether they’re in the United States, in the middle of the ocean, or navigating lands abroad, it is something almost every service member will have to face at some point.

I haven’t suffered the effects of depression myself, but I have dealt with the loneliness. It starts as soon as you head off to boot camp. When I took my first steps off of the bus, I knew it was going to be hard. I was used to calling my parents every day and always having someone to talk to. Suddenly, I didn’t know anyone, and my phone had been taken away from me. I was terrified, but at a certain point I looked around and realized that everyone around me was in the exact same boat. I had so many people to talk to because everyone was missing someone. We were all in it together, and we quickly became a family.

After boot camp, when everyone went their separate ways, I was alone again. It didn’t take long to make friends once I got to school, but now I was even farther away from home and my family. The only difference this time was that I had my phone and could call them whenever I wanted. When I felt lonely, I could talk to my mom and dad. Eventually, I met a wonderful girl who became my fiancée, and I didn’t have to worry about the loneliness as much anymore. I am at my first command now, closer to home, and my fiancée is able to be here with me.

I got lucky though.

As Forbes reported, the United States military averaged one active-duty suicide per day, which was about 50 percent more than the lives that were lost in the line of duty. The suicide rate among veterans of the war in Afghanistan has risen 22 percent since 1999. Many studies have also shown a great increase in depression and substance abuse among active-duty men and women over the years.

Dealing with depression in the military can be a risky business because so much of our success depends on our mental and physical readiness to complete a mission. There are so many men and women in the military who don’t talk to anyone about their problems because they fear embarrassment, disappointing their comrades, or people looking down on them. Due to the stigma associated with mental illness, people usually try to keep quiet.

It may seem difficult to seek help for depression when you’re in the military, but there are resources available, including chaplains, help lines, seeing medical professionals, and other services. We receive training on signs to look for and where to go when things are tough. Yes, these resources are still underutilized, and these topics aren’t always addressed that often. But we’re all in this together, soldier or sailor, male or female. We all have each other’s back, and that’s a good place to start.

If you or someone you know are in the military and are looking for more information or assistance concerning mental health struggles, you can find more information here: http://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/

You can also find resources on our FIND HELP page.

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Comments (5)

  1. KaOutar EL Mohati

    i really like it . so interest for me

    Reply  |  
  2. nick

    Its great to see that you got help and I want to thank you for the service, my mentor was in the special forces for Canada, and he looked for professional army, but that did not help, and one quote he told me stuck with me,”you can train to kill, but you cant train to un-kill and forget.” So at times he felt lonely, but he turned to God and now lives a life for the lord! Keep up the good service!

    Reply  |  
  3. Nick Stokes

    My friend had a similar issue. He was in the military for years. Most of that time, he was battling depression. At first he didnt even want to admit to himself. As the time went by it became more severe so he had to address it. Luckily, it ended well for him.

    Reply  |  
  4. Trace Williams

    Hi.. I just recently got back from deployment, I’m a sailor stationed out in San Diego. This was my first deployment. I am unsure why I feel so empty and alone. All I want to do is sleep, I am dealing with a lot of stress. I just got married to my high school sweetheart of 3 years, trying to move her out here just got my very first car nothing crazy just a Nissan Altima ’14. I drink a lot, smoke and chew. I’ve been trying to quit and I think that’s just adding to these feeling I am dealing with. I cut my friends off because at the time I just needed to be alone. All I do is sit in my car waiting for the days to pass by for my government housing to get accepted. And then what just sit there in the house alone waiting for my wife to move out here.. I ha e no hobbies from the time I turned 16 I’ve worked my ass off. I just kinda gave up on a lot of things I enjoyed and now I try and go back to them I dont find them very interesting. I was driving my car the other day with my buddy in, we were on our way to get some food and we came to this turn on the highway it was up on a bridge and I just kinda blacked out and wanted to drive off. Then I realized I had my friend in the car and snapped right out. And at that moment I knew I had to keep away from them. I just wish I was back on depyloment life was so much simpler there I knew the dangers and was ready to fight for what I believe in. Ship shipmate self… that’s what I try to live by but then I hear everyone say mo look after yourself and it just fucks with my head. If you have any advice please shoot me an email.

    Reply  |  
    1. TWLOHA

      Hi Trace,

      First, thank you for commenting and sharing a part of your story with us. We know it isn’t easy to be honest or vulnerable, but we are grateful you were. It can also be difficult to find joy in the things we used to when depression is consuming our thoughts. You’re not alone in this one bit and we hope we can offer you some encouragement as you work to fight this.

      Would you email our team at [email protected] so we can respond further?

      With Hope,

      Reply  |  
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