Military Deployments Affect Teens Mental Health

USC Study

By Debbie Gregory.

The School of Social Work at the University of Southern California (USC) completed a study that linked teen depression and suicidal behaviors with multiple military deployments by family members. The study surveyed data from 14,299 7th, 9th and 11th grade students, including 1,914 that had a military-connected parent or sibling.

The results suggest that teens with a military-connected parent or sibling have a higher rate of feeling hopeless or sad than their peers who are not military-connected. The study also found that the rate of suicidal ideation for the teens studied was at 24.8% for those with a deployed parent, and 26.1% for those with a sibling who had been deployed.

Previous research conducted on the mental health of military children has focused solely on those kids who were already receiving treatment for their concerns. But much of that data was considered inconclusive or unusable by experts who couldn’t use it to gauge mental health incidents among all military children, or compare the data against non-military affected children.

The research in the USC study found that adolescents, as a whole, are experiencing more mental health concerns than previously thought.  The study suggests that all adolescents should receive increased mental health evaluations, and that military-connected children should receive additional consideration. A recommendation was made, in the publication, for non-conventional methods to be used for spotting and screening mental health concerns, including civilian pediatric offices and schools.

This study is fascinating in that it presents data that is not in the vanguard of American mental health concerns. Our thoughts are focused on the service members and Veterans, who are absolutely deserving of our attention and should receive the foremost consideration for treatment of their mental wounds. But much like the ways firefighters must battle blazes in a sweeping motion, we should keep our war-related mental health attentions constantly searching the periphery, looking for collateral hotspots. Children, siblings, spouses, parents, other relations and friends of those deployed can suffer from the effects of constantly worrying about their deployed loved-one, for months on end. This generation of constant war has taken its toll on all of us, whether we realize it or not. The sooner that we, as a nation, recognize areas that have been affected by war, the sooner we can begin to repair or rebuild areas where damage has been done.