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.