The Continuing Cost of Conflict

The Continuing Cost of Conflict
by Megan Hazle, Communications Liasion, CIR
MaryAnn Frattarole, Director of Marketing, USC Telehealth

The sacrifice of our servicemembers is great, but not borne by them alone. Standing alongside our heroes in uniform are the heroes at home – their spouses, children, and families who also give and sacrifice and bear the toll of their loved ones in conflict around the world.

According to 2010 U.S. Census data, approximately 2.3 million men and women have served in the U.S. military since the conflict began in Afghanistan in 2001, many serving multiple deployments. As the U.S. military withdraws from these conflicts, many servicemembers will return home to begin their adjustment to life in the civilian world.

This new generation of veterans and their family members face unique challenges in transitioning back to civilian life—and therefore have unique needs. In addition to invisible wounds like traumatic brain injury, depression, and post-traumatic stress, servicemembers and veterans face unique challenges that also affect the health and well-being of their family members and caregivers – spouses, partners, children, siblings, parents, and other loved ones.

Family members, like spouses and children, often experience severe stress during their servicemember’s deployment and, upon their return home, must readjust to their presence in the home and family life – physically, emotionally, and mentally. It is common for children and teens of returning servicemembers to develop social and behavioral problems that become increasingly frequent at home and at school.

In addition to re-adjusting to a new civilian life and family pattern, a veteran and their family will often also need to adjust to a new home, location, school system, community, and social atmosphere, perhaps leaving a familiar support system the family had established with other military families and losing the relational connection with peers in the realm of military culture.

Although civilians also experience readjustment issues when they relocate, servicemembers, veterans, and their families are additionally affected by social stigma, military-related psychological trauma, military-related physical injuries, as well as a lack of understanding and resources in the community. Combined with other common stressors like single parenthood, divorce, unemployment, family obligations, and financial hardship, military-impacted populations are uniquely vulnerable to behavioral health problems. Without guidance or help, these challenges may become overwhelming and impede their reintegration into the civilian community and family life, which can cause a downward cycle of additional stress on a veteran trying to cope with their experiences and be a successful parent, partner, and employee.

Fortunately, strides are finally being made to acknowledge the physical, psychological, and emotional cost of war upon those serving and on their families, but we have a long way to go to remove the stigma of asking for help. New Internet technology is providing highly secure and HIPAA-compliant confidential therapy services so that active duty servicemembers, veterans, and their immediate families can get the help they need, when they need it, in the privacy of their own homes.

To address these needs, USC Telehealth™ in conjunction with the University of Southern California Center for Innovation and Research on Veterans & Military Families, with funding from the USC School of Social Work, recently launched a special military outreach program to support and serve California active duty servicemembers, veterans, and their immediate families by providing free confidential counseling services for at least 12 sessions (3 months or more). These no-cost services can be initiated by a servicemember or an adult in their immediate family residing in California.

To use these services, the technology needed includes: a recent computer or laptop with webcam, and high-speed Internet. To find out more about the program, visit www.usctelehealth.com. Availability is first-come, first serve and there are current openings. To sign up call USC Telehealth at (866) 740-6502.