Military and Veteran Families Get Support at New UT Austin Institute

UT News (Sep 2019)

AUSTIN, Texas — After years of continuous war, multiple deployments and barriers to accessing targeted and effective programming, U.S. military and veteran families face a diverse set of needs, including addressing the effects of military trauma, stresses on the family from prolonged separation, and the challenges of transitioning from military to civilian life.

Families seeking support for these demands can find help through the new Institute for Military & Veteran Family Wellness — a joint effort between the Steve Hicks School of Social Work and the Department of Psychiatry of Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin. The institute addresses these needs by evaluating, developing and implementing programs that put the needs of military and veteran families at the forefront.

“Veterans’ challenges are their families’ challenges, whether it’s learning to live with a severe injury, coping with mental health issues, or adjusting to civilian life,” said institute director and social work professor Elisa Borah. “It is often spouses, in fact, who encourage the veteran or service member to seek treatment to save their marriage or improve family dynamics.”

Anne Jackson is one of those spouses of the 1.7 million military veterans in Texas and 40,000 living in and around the Austin area. After her husband MJ came back from his second deployment to Afghanistan, he was detached and easily angered, which put the whole family on edge. Jackson started seeing a counselor and eventually pursuaded her husband to receive counseling services, too.

“We military families don’t just need support when our [partners] are gone,” Jackson said. “We need it when they are back, too. And it’s not all parades and rainbows and YouTube clips where everyone is crying because they are so happy. It’s a lot of hard work.”

Jackson and her veteran husband joined one of the institute’s programs and found talking to other couples going through similar experiences to be very helpful.

“Being able to talk to people who went through what I went through provides a lot of healing. It reminds you that you are not crazy, that you are not alone,” Jackson said.

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