Depression in the Army

What is it like with depression in the army?

Depression grips millions of people in this country and abroad. The stresses of daily life, dealing with traumatic events and lack of being where one wants to be can all be triggers or serve to exacerbate depression.

Depression defined

Depression is defined as feelings of severe despondency and dejection. The most common symptoms of depression are overwhelming sadness, emptiness or hopelessness, cognitive changes, preoccupation with death, clinginess, aches and pains, weight problems, poor appetite, constricted blood vessels, a weakened immune system, heart attack and unfortunately, suicide.

Onset of depression in the army

Enlisting in the army and serving one's country is thought of as a heroic, valiant and honorable deed. What is brought to the forefront or promoted is the perils faced in the minds of soldiers.

Many of them occur before ever stepping foot on the battlefield. The training process to become a soldier fit for the theater of war is grueling. Not only do those who've enlisted endure tremendous physical demands, their minds can be affected as well. If they feel they cannot handle the training, they are portrayed as being weak. Rather than being provided with support, they are ridiculed and ostracized. Those who have these thoughts and elect not to mention them typically do so after witnessing the repercussions of another enlistee's admission.

Their problems are compounded because they suffer in silence and then they get approved to go to war. This amplifies every issue they have exponentially. Seeing people die and dealing with the possibility of death at every turn makes their condition unbearable. Depression affects decision making and responsiveness, both of which are vital to being a soldier.

It is thought that 14% of US army personnel experience depression after they have been deployed, although this number may be higher as depression in the army can often go unreported.

Treatment of depression in the army after discharge

It is difficult to prove depression for discharge and commonly a military lawyer's services are required to help achieve this. The reason for this is two-fold. Doctors in the military are hesitant to classify a soldier as suffering from depression to the point that a discharge is required. The military spend a lot of money training each soldier and they want to receive a return on their investment. Other soldiers may or may not have legitimately suffered from depression, but those who do not feign symptoms, thus making it harder for those truly suffering to get the help that they require in the form of discharge and medical services.

Denied Treatment

Sadly, those who are denied are forced to go back into service for the remainder of their contract. Once their tours are over, they are discharged back into civilian life, but the damage has been done. It is equivalent to burning your hand on the stove and while the wound needs healing, you place your hand back on the burner again. Support services are available, but with their depression largely leaving their minds in a state of disrepair, they do not truly know how badly in need of help they are. They often end up homeless, violent, incarcerated or they take their own life.

Positive Outcomes

There are positive outcomes for soldiers who have suffered from depression and have overcome it. There are several ways to overcome depression, including exercising regularly, consuming healthy food and drink, developing good sleeping habits, practicing relaxation techniques, avoiding misusing alcohol, staying away from drugs entirely and setting small goals while pacing yourself in achieving them.

Other thing that may help you to win your battle include praying, recognizing and challenging your critical inner voice, identifying and feeling your anger, engaging in aerobic activity, putting yourself in social or non-isolated situations, doing activities you once enjoyed, even when you do not feel like it, watching a funny movie or television show, refusing to punish yourself for feeling bad or seeing a therapist.

Ultimately, you must be open and honest enough to admit there is a problem and take several proactive steps to ensuring you return to your normal, healthy self.

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Last Reviewed:
June 13, 2017
Last Updated:
October 09, 2017
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