Life in a time of COVID-19 is a lot like military life in general. You can plan all you want but ultimately, there are times when someone else is going to make the calls that affect your life. You spend a lot of time in hurry–up–and–wait mode. And if you can’t make it better, you can choose to embrace it and take what you can get. At least that’s what two couples with wedding plans impacted by COVID-19 decided to do in the latest on the MFAN blog. You can read all about it here.
Here’s what we’re hearing this week:
National government campaign aims to reduce veteran suicides
A federal task force, established last year by the White House to lower veterans’ suicides, found that the majority of veteran, guardsman and reservist deaths by suicide (approximately 14 of the 20 per day on average) were by individuals not under VA care.
Citing the need for community outreach, a 2-year initiative with a budget of $53 million dollars has been announced by the White House, calling for the public to connect with and look out for each other and for the de-stigmatization of mental health issues.
The main message of the REACH initiative is that suicide is preventable and that engagement by community stakeholders (e.g. nonprofits, places of worship, etc.) is an integral part of prevention efforts. This message is one that officials believe can be of benefit to civilians and veterans alike.
And that’s particularly welcome news considering the fact that 12.5% of participants in MFAN’s 2019 Military Family Support Programming Survey indicated they had thoughts about suicide in the past two years, and another 6.1% declined to respond when asked about whether or not they had experienced any such thoughts.
An interesting side note: While discussing the importance of wearing a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic might not make sense in a conversation about suicide prevention, Surgeon General Jerome Adams suggested otherwise. He said that wearing a mask allows greater freedom and choice because places will be more likely to remain open with a slower rate of spread, which “will decrease that hopelessness” and thus “lower suicide rates.”
Better supports to come for Air Force EFMP families
There’s good news for Air Force families enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP). The Air Force is introducing the Exceptional Assignment Program division – offering a single point of contact for the provision of service to families (e.g. assignments help and medical and family support) and aiming to be more quickly responsive to the needs of program enrollees. This change could potentially alleviate much of the frustration families express that they feel over what they consider to be a very complex and inefficient system.
According to the 2019 Military Family Support Programming Survey, approximately one-third of respondents who were eligible to enroll in the EFMP or the Coast Guard’s Special Needs Program (SNP) did not choose to do so. Negative perception about the programs (41.4%) and frustration with the enrollment process (26.3%) were the two most cited reasons for their decision. And 56% of respondents who were enrolled, shared negative experiences using the programs. The data suggest that changes such as this one by the Air Force are very welcome.
Future plans for this division include adding supports such as legal assistance, Tricare support, and special education liaisons.
Once a Marine, Always a Marine
Kelly “Murph” Murphy, a 22-year Marine Corps veteran, is “tough as nails” and he intends to prove it as a competitor on a reality show of the same name. Tough as Nails (CBS) brings competitors to real-world job sites and tests their physical and mental strength and endurance.
Murphy credits his military experience with helping him during his time on the show. Tough as Nails debuts this week, and while you’ll have missed the first episode by the time you’re reading this, there are nine more episodes scheduled to air. The genius behind the show? Amazing Race host and producer Phil Keoghan.