As we reported late last week, a recent study has confirmed that wives of active-duty soldiers are more likely to be diagnosed with depression, anxiety, sleep disorders and other mental health conditions. While much attention is focused on the mental health of soldiers themselves (especially with the recent rise in suicides in the military), a lot less attention is given to the families of those soldiers. This new study helps shed some much-needed light on the subject, and confirms what has long been suspected — the emotional toll for war-time deployments is much higher than anybody thought.

The AP story on this issue had this quote: “Spouses tell me all the time that they want to get mental health assistance,” [wife of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] said. “As incorrect as this is, they really do believe if they seek help it will have a negative impact on their spouse’s military career.”

The stigma that many soldiers face for seeking mental health treatment is also one mirrored by military families. This culture of not showing any kind of weakness — or that if you do, it may rub off on the active duty soldier — is endemic in the armed services. It won’t be ended simply by more education or awareness. The services must make a concerted effort to change the culture of silence and repression, which is going to take years.

There is no easy answer to this problem. Simply saying — “Get help, it won’t affect your husband’s or wife’s military career” will fall on deaf ears. You can’t undo a cultural rule with just words. Actions must follow. People must not just be told it won’t affect their career, they have to actually see it not having any effect.

Furthermore, nobody is systematically tracking military family suicides or mental health issues. Outside of lone studies like this one, we have little understanding of the impact of military service on a person’s loved ones and immediate family.

If you’re a woman who is struggling with depression related to your pregnancy or after your child’s birth (such as postpartum depression), I’d also like to make you aware of this list of support support coordinators who are available to offer peer support, information, and resources for military women and their families for pregnancy or postpartum mood and anxiety disorders and recovery.

Read the full story: Mental Health Issues Among Wives of Deployed