American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 29, 2011 - In this post, Sheri Hall answers questions about how she supported her family while her husband, Army Maj. Jeff Hall, struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder after his second tour in Iraq, and shares how she encouraged him to seek help through the Deployment Health Clinical Center’s specialized care program. The center is part of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, and offers care for those experiencing PTSD and reintegration concerns.
Q. What was your reaction when your husband returned home?
A. I noticed he had a deep, dark, hollow look in his eyes. I asked him if he needed to talk to someone. I let him know that I was supportive but he wasn’t receptive at the time. I think he felt he needed to be the “macho” soldier.
Q. What was the impact of his post-combat stress on you?
A. I was never fearful for Jeff’s life while he was in combat, since I knew that he trained himself well. When Jeff returned and was having suicidal thoughts, I couldn’t sleep. I was so worried I would sit in bed and watch him. I feared he would just leave. I lost 15 pounds in two weeks. When I’d take the kids to school, I would race home to make sure Jeff was where I last saw him.
Q. How did you try to communicate with your husband during this time?
A. I told him that while I didn’t know the effects of combat, I knew that something was wrong. It was hard because he kind of pushed me and the girls away. Finally, I sat down with him and said, “If you kill yourself, how do I explain it to your daughters, your mother and father, and my family?” It was like a light bulb went on, and that’s when we looked into the DHCC program.
Q. What would you tell military parents about how to communicate with their children?
A. Encourage children to be vocal; tell us what’s bothering you. I put on a big front when Jeff was experiencing PTSD and never told the girls about my sleepless nights. If I had, we could have communicated better.
Q. What advice would you give a military spouse experiencing similar challenges?
A. I tell military wives to keep that line of communication as open as possible. Then, if something is wrong, a spouse will immediately know. I wish I had stood firmer with Jeff and said, “No, you’re going to get help” when he resisted. Don’t just let things be.
Hall recommends people dealing with reintegration check out the free resources offered through the Real Warriors Campaign and the Defense Centers of Excellence, such as the Outreach Center’s live chat. The feature instantly connects users with trained health resource consultants who can help with psychological health concerns.
Click here to view the Real Warriors and Families video profile featuring the Hall family.
(This post originally appeared on the Defense Centers of Excellence blog.)
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