Healing the Trauma of War

At MHA-H, we have watched with grave concern as more and more information has emerged about the serious difficulties facing soldiers and their families and the over-stretched military systems of care.  In Hawai`i, for example:

  • 54 year old ex-Air Force man leaped to his death from the tenth floor of Tripler Hospital in January 2007, after being unable to obtain mental health services for his bipolar disorder and long history of depression.
  • On Kamehameha Day 2007 on the Big Island, a member of the Army National Guard who had recently returned from Iraq stabbed his estranged, pregnant wife, killing their unborn child, and then stabbed and killed his 14-year-old son Tyran who had tried to intervene.
  • In June 2009, MHA-H received a frantic call from a teacher in an elementary school on a military base.  She said their classrooms have become unmanageable, filled with scores of children with severe behavior disorders, primarily related to parents’ being deployed or problems when they return.  Although the school receives a weekly visit from a mental health team, “it’s not enough,” and the teachers feel that they and the children are being abandoned without adequate resources. 

Record rates of suicide and homicide, mental health and substance abuse problems, domestic violence and marital conflict, work and financial troubles, emotional problems in children, consequences of sexual trauma among female soldiers, traumatic brain injury, need for social support, and homelessness – these are the issues that are surfacing.

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MHA-H is launching an effort to enable Hawai`i, as a state with a significant military presence, to come together as a community to determine how we can increase the support available to our returning military, their spouses, and their children.          

The purpose of MHA-H’s “Healing the Trauma of War” project is twofold:

  • To identify the unmet needs specifically of returning National Guard/Reserves, their spouses, and their children, and develop and implement an action plan to address those needs; and
  • To hold town hall meetings that convene the public, the military, and others (schools, employers, providers, policymakers) to discuss how we as a community can come together to help solve some of the problems facing our soldiers and their families.

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