Report: Military Wives More Likely to Suffer Mental Illness, Alcohol Abuse

By Carl PrineContact Reporter

November 2, 2016

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On Oct. 11, Jennifer Johnson tried to kill herself.

Addicted to cocaine and prescription opiates, still grieving from the death of her Army husband in Afghanistan five years ago, the New York woman believed she had reached bottom.

After the attempt, she decided to seek therapy, something she had avoided because she never wanted “to burden people.”

“It really was a pride thing,” said Johnson, 30, who has stayed sober since getting the professional help.

Johnson spoke to The San Diego Union-Tribune on Wednesday because she wanted to spare other military spouses from what happened to her — dabbling in drugs that led to addiction, being tortured by feelings of isolation and avoiding assistance for years due to the stigma of mental illness.

A groundbreaking study released on the same day showed that Johnson is far from alone in her experiences.

The report from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that military wives are more likely than their civilian peers to abuse prescription medications meant to treat anxiety, attention deficit disorder and other psychological problems.

They’re also more likely than other married women to suffer from mental illness, consume liquor and binge drink, according to the analysis.

The relatively younger population of military wives partly explains the high levels of drinking, but the higher rates of mental illness might stem from the unusual hardships these women face — long periods of separation from husbands on deployment and the constant fear of those loved ones becoming injured or dying.

Meanwhile, the study indicated that military wives are less likely to use marijuana and just as likely to use illicit drugs overall.



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