DEAR MS. VICKI: Husband needs help; wife needs backup

Dear Ms. Vicki, My husband has spent three years in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past five years, and he is not even active-duty. He is in the National Guard.

He has been home for six months and is not doing well by my book. That’s making it hard to communicate with him and keep our marriage going. I believe he has post-traumatic stress disorder and is using alcohol and possibly other drugs to help him cope.

I keep begging him to speak to a professional, but he refuses. He says he doesn’t want to lose his job, and he doesn’t want to have someone poking his nose in our business. He keeps saying he is fine, but I know he isn’t.

He also feels that soldiers shouldn’t get help, that it’s handled in the units. Why is he using this as an excuse? I’m really afraid for him If he continues on this way; I know something bad is going to happen. Where do I turn?

- National Guard Spouse

Dear Spouse,

Soldiers are coming forth and receiving services. I know this is a difficult concept for your husband to grasp. Mental health professionals like me are doing all we can to erase the stigma of getting mental health services, and units and commanders are helping increasingly with this.

Studies show the numbers of service members coming forward and honestly reporting different changes and symptoms pre- and post-deployment are increasing. I think this is great. Unfortunately, there is still the thinking that receiving services means you are weak or unfit for duty. Some service members even think that speaking to a professional therapist could have an adverse effect on their career, i.e., loss of promotion or of a security clearance. It’s actually the reverse: Not seeking services when they’re needed definitely will have negative repercussions on one’s career.

Though you can’t make your husband reach out for services, I think it would be a good idea for you to speak to a professional counselor to help you. I think you need the support. I also think it’s imperative that I validate your concerns: Your husband does need help. He needs help right now. It’s only a matter of time before he has legal troubles, whether it be a DUI or problems on the job.

I’m also concerned about your support network. I think you should visit www.militaryonesource.com, which offers a host of services and resources for National Guard members and their families. You also can call and speak to someone by phone 24/7. All services are free.

I know this is a difficult time for you, and I don’t want you to think that I’m placing this all on your shoulders to handle alone. I encourage you to learn more about combat stress disorders. The more you know, the more you can share with your husband. Tell him that he can get help and still keep his dignity. Try soliciting assistance from trusted family members and friends who can encourage him to seek help. Hang in there and keep in touch.

Dear Ms. Vicki,

My husband is preparing to leave for his third deployment. He’s superstitious and keeps saying, “The third time is the charm.” He says he knows he won’t come back this time and it’s only a matter of time before his luck runs out. I know he is scared, and he is saying he won’t go this time, but he would be AWOL.

After two miscarriages, I just found out that I am six weeks pregnant with our first child. I know he is excited he is going to be a father and he is angry that he could miss the birth of our first child or not be around to see his child grow up.

Trust me, Ms. Vicki, I’m trying to be the voice of reason and face this like a mature adult. If he goes AWOL, it won’t solve anything; it scares me to think of the problems that going AWOL would cause. He just won’t listen to me and says he wants to keep his parents out of this. (In a way, I don’t want to involve his parents, either. His dad has high blood pressure and his mother is a diabetic. They have stress of their own.)

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