The receptionist quickly scheduled me for an appointment and a few days later I was sitting on an exam table in Clark Clinic on Ft. Bragg, waiting to see my PCM. She—confident, reassuring, kind—breezed into the room and asked me what was wrong. I straightened my shoulders and tried to look like I had it all together, stalling. Finally, with my enunciation exaggerated and my eyes looking down at my dangling feet, I blurted out, “I think I’m depressed,” but the last word was muffled because I dropped my head into my hands.
“I think you are, too,” she said gently, and then she wrote me a prescription for Wellbutrin and kindly walked with me down the hall, where she introduced me to a psychologist. Within a few weeks, I was feeling like myself again, like the me who’d gone missing over a year earlier.
I can’t imagine—rather, I don’t want to imagine—what might have happened if I had finally summoned the nerve to make that phone call only to be told that there were no appointments available.
Half of respondents said they had trouble accessing care
That’s why the latest information released from MFAN’s Military Family Support Programming Survey is so important. Half of the survey respondents told us they did not have good access to mental health care because there were not enough appointments available, and that was before the COVID-19 pandemic. We know the pandemic has only made things worse. Right now, there are military family members like me who have summoned every bit of their courage to make that phone call, and they’re being turned away.
Sometimes I think about all the days I lost to that gray haze. People who haven’t had depression often don’t understand is that it’s not sadness as much as exhaustion. It’s not having the reserves required to advocate for yourself or to absorb a hassle.
Military life can be challenging, for even the strongest, most supported people in our community. The data MFAN released today tells us that half of military and veteran families are not able to get mental health appointments when they need them, and that means people—people like me—are falling through the cracks.
Reasons for Hope
But there’s good news, too. The data released today also tell us that military family members are interested in using telehealth. They’d like to explore receiving the care they need through non-traditional methods.
I hope you’ll dig in and read about what respondents told us. This release, like the others we’ve made available, provides an informative, in-depth look at our military and veteran community and offers suggestions for ways these needs can be addressed so that no one who summons the courage to make that call ever gets told no.