Children of Deployed Could Use Our Help
C onsider the plight of children of military members deployed in combat areas overseas. Such youngsters have abounded in Moore County over the past decade as a result of two factors: the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the proximity of Fort Bragg. They are often easy to overlook among the general student population.
But as a study elsewhere reminds us, they could use a helping hand and an understanding heart in dealing with a unique set of problems. Though these school-age military dependents may be indistinguishable from other young people on the street or in our classrooms, they often have to cope with stresses and problems that their friends and classmates can scarcely imagine.
Now in the news are a set of findings recently released by the School of Public Health at the University of Washington. Researchers there based their study on a 2008 mental-health survey of students in Washington state - which, like North Carolina, counts among its population a large number of active-duty members of America's armed forces.
Among other things, the study revealed that, among 10th- and 12th-grade boys with a parent serving overseas, 36 percent often felt depressed. This compared with 20 percent of boys from civilian families in the same age group.
Fully 44 percent of the boys with a deployed parent described themselves as having a low quality of life, as against only 20 percent - less than half that - with nonmilitary backgrounds. And 26 percent of them, as opposed to 14 percent in the nonmilitary group, reported experiencing suicidal thoughts.
These results are troubling. Though there have been many media reports about the heavy toll that war-zone duty takes on individual service members, the effect on their dependents back in the States has received far less coverage. But the situation cries out for our attention.
Whether it's special programs in the schools or other forms of community intervention or neighborhood support, the rest of us should be doing all we can to help ease these painful family situations that are so often endured in silence. Our armed forces members serving in harm's way are making sacrifices enough as it is, without having them compounded in indirect forms back home.
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