Prioritizing military family mental health

November 12, 2013

HomeFront Strong, a University of Michigan Depression Center program for military spouses that focuses on building resilience and coping skills, will expand its reach into several additional southeast Michigan communities with the support of new funding from the Flinn Foundation.

HomeFront Strong, or HFS, is an eight-week, group-based, mental health program grounded in evidence-based strategies tailored for military spouses and children.  It focuses on building social support and positive relationships, learning new approaches to self-care, connecting to resources, and promoting resiliency and positive coping.

With parallel groups offered for military spouses and children (ages 0-18), HFS is designed to enhance resiliency, reduce negative mental health symptoms, and improve coping for military families across the stages of deployment.

The program is open to military spouses/partners across deployment (pre, during, or post). For more information, email m-spanprograms@umich.edu.

Also this week, the U-M Depression Center is sponsoring a forum for families of those who have served or are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Military Family Support Forum on November 16 in Ann Arbor will focus on post traumatic stress disorder. The event is free and more information is available here.

Previous funding from the Flinn Foundation allowed a team from the U-M Depression Center to develop, implement, and evaluate HFS. The latest funding will train community therapists to provide the intervention and offer the program in four counties (Wayne, Washtenaw, Oakland, and Macomb).

HFS is part of Military Support Programs and Networks (M-SPAN), the U-M Depression Center’s portfolio of military initiatives for servicemembers and their families. The M-SPAN programs were originally developed as part of the Welcome Back Veterans initiative, funded by the McCormick Foundation and Major League Baseball Charities.

The need for HomeFront Strong and other programs

More than 19,000 Michigan Air and National Guard service members have deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and other locations since September 11, 2001.  Military families are also cycling through these deployments, and many are facing great challenges. HomeFront Strong is designed for them.

One in three military spouses report clinically significant levels of mental health symptoms (anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress) and one in 10 spouses report suicidal ideation in the previous year.  Also concerning, greater than 30% of military children post-deployment demonstrate clinically elevated emotional and behavioral concerns, as reported by parents.

As servicemembers deploy and return, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are coming home to Michigan children and families.  These mental health concerns, coupled with high unemployment rates, geographic isolation, health care instability, financial insecurity, and looming re-deployments place military families at significant risk.

 

The Ethel and James Flinn Foundation is a Detroit-based private foundation established in 1976 by Ethel “Peggy” Flinn and her brother, James “Jim” Flinn, Jr.  Peggy passed away in 1994.  Jim Flinn, Jr., who was diagnosed with schizophrenia in his early 20’s, led a remarkable life until his passing away in 2007 at the age of 91. The Foundation is committed to improving the scope, quality and delivery of mental health services in Michigan.  Since inception, over $24 million in grants have been awarded.  The Foundation’s geographic focus is primarily Southeast Michigan, defined as the counties of Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw.

 

Link to original UMHS press release.