If you follow me on Facebook, which many of you do, you've seen me talking about the fact that May is Military Appreciation Month. Throughout the month there are different days, events, and activities geared toward showing respect and gratitude to our men and women who serve (and have served) and their families, culminating with Memorial Day next Monday.
This week is Military Mental Health Advocacy Week. The Military Spouses of Strength (MSOS) and Military Mental Health Project (MMHP), in collaboration with some amazing people like my friend, psychologist, and National Guard Spouse of the Year Dr. Ingrid Herrera-Yee, are working hard this week to spread the message about the mental health issues facing our military and veterans, and to garner support for efforts to address those issues while crushing the stigma that prevents so many people from seeking the help that they need.
The importance of this work cannot be overstated. Every day, 22 veterans in this country take their own lives. The Department of Defense does not currently have statistics on military spouses or children, but research by CNN on the issue is simply staggering. And that is saying nothing of the huge need among our men and women currently serving.
We understand the importance of addressing the wounds of our combat injured--and they are many. It is easy to forget, though, that sometimes the piece of themselves our service members leave behind is not a limb, but a piece of their psyche, their personhood. Like all other wounds of war, healing can happen, but it takes time and professional help. The kind of help many do not have access to, and more are afraid to use because of the stigma associated with mental illness.
That's where we can help. Crushing the stigma starts with us. We need to educate ourselves on what invisible wounds are, and how they actually affect people. We need to send a clear message that we want to see our war wounded cared for, whether we can see their wounds or not. And we need to say to our warriors with invisible wounds: "these are battle scars, like all other injuries you sustained while protecting me and everything I hold dear. They do not diminish who you are, they merely require treatment."
All this week the MSOS and MMHP are on the Hill talking to our elected officials about the importance of addressing military mental health issues. You can follow the MSOS and MMHP Facebook pages for updates.