Interview By: Christina Etchberger

Mental health is such an important topic to discuss, especially for our military servicemembers, families, and veterans. IML is excited to have Jenny Lynne Stroup join us today about mental health within the military community and beyond. Jenny Lynne is an outreach coordinator for a military family clinic. She is a mental health advocate with personal and professional experiences that have provided her with the resources and knowledge to help those in the military community and beyond.

1. Tell us a little about yourself. What brought you to this point in your career and personal life – now as a military spouse and a mental health advocate?

Though I was born and raised in Hampton Roads, a military area, I had very little knowledge about military life until I met and married my husband. Now I’m almost 12 years into living life as a military spouse. Being a military spouse has afforded me a lot of opportunities. I’ve lived in places I never dreamed of visiting, much less living. I’ve attended events and ceremonies that seem to be from another time and era in with their traditions and honors. I have friends and community scattered across the world. And I’ve also had a hefty amount of sorrow and hard things to work through as a direct result of being married to someone in the military.

It’s a combination of all it-the bad and the good that led me to where I am today in both my career and personal life. My personal quest for better mental health for myself and my family led me to write about our lives and our healing, which led me to a job where I advocate for and promote mental health care for post-9/11 veterans, their families, and active duty families like mine. 

2. Describe your military spouse journey so far? What have been the most rewarding moments, and what have been your greatest challenges?

My military spouse life has been a lot like surfing- a few epic rides, several times being rolled by giant waves, and often feeling like I was being sucked under by something that was completely out of my control. And all the while not really knowing how to surf, but continuing to get back on the board. Some of the most rewarding times, the good waves, are those times spent in community with people we’ve met along the way.

Community, to me, is the best thing about military life. My greatest challenges, those waves that rolled me or tried to suck me under, were the times where poor mental health threatened our daily life. My husband was diagnosed with PTSD and mTBI after his Individual Augmentee tour in Afghanistan. The years following that tour and subsequent diagnoses were hard. Not only because he was struggling, but also because my mental health deteriorated as I continued to try to hold it altogether. Trying to reintegrate into a functional family unit after several years apart and poor mental health is not a recipe for success. 

3. If a member of the military community is seeking mental health care, what should they do to receive assistance as a service member, military spouse, or family member?

Answering this question with a hard and fast “How-to” is impossible, because my comfortability level with talking about my own mental health is different from many people’s and the process is different for each group. So my recommendation is to simply say something to the people closest to you if you find yourself feeling down or anxious, or using something-alcohol, shopping, eating- to make it through the day. Saying something, may sound like, “I’m not feeling like myself lately. I’m spending a lot of time on the couch. I find myself drinking more than usual. I have trouble concentrating. I don’t sleep well at night.”  Any of those statements can be indicators that seeking mental health treatment may be the next right step.

The benefit of being a military spouse or family member is that we have the ability to self-refer to a mental health treatment program, meaning we don’t need a doctor’s approval/referral to seek the help we need when we feel we need it. 

4. If a family member or friend wants to reach out to learn how to help their loved one through a difficult time, how should they go about this?

There are multiple programs that offer tools and/or training for helping military families through difficult seasons. One such tool is: https://www.cohenveteransnetwork.org/toolsforstress/ 

5. Where can people find you online and on social media?

Website: www.jennylynnestroup.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jennylynnestroup

Instagram: @jgsalias

Twitter   @Jenny_Lynne_S

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