The stigmatization of mental illness can have a harmful effect on the person suffering. So many people focus on the first word—mental—thinking the problem is more one of mindset, and ignore the second part: illness. The harmful effects of stigma, such as being bullied or harassed, discrimination in the workplace, and a general lack of understanding, can make sufferers hesitant to seek desperately-needed treatment.

For no one is this probably more true than a member of the armed services. Though service members who have seen combat have been exposed to atrocities most of us can never understand, these brave women and men are reluctant to admit their struggles because they are supposed to be the strongest of us all. For this, their quality of life can be painfully degraded, and life itself can even come to screeching halt when it all gets to be too much. 

Those in the New Adult age range, 18 to 25, have seen the U.S. at war for a significant portion of their lives, and many of these have been in the armed services.  While there are many romances that feature characters who have served (or are serving) there are so many more stories of these New Adult service members that could be told.

Many enlisted service members marry young. In a Huffington Post article titled “Military Marriages, Strained by War, Beginning to Heal,” a profiled couple was married when the service member was 25 and his wife 22. He had been in the military for seven years already at that point, and had served one tour of duty. During later tours, the soldier experienced additional trauma, and suffered from PTSD after returning home. Their marriage has been impacted greatly, but they have set on a course of healing. A New Adult novel inspired by stories such as theirs would be powerful and could positively impact others who may be dealing with similar issues.

The Department of Veterans Affairs reports that veterans account for 20 percent of all U.S. suicides, and that those between the ages of 17 and 24 have suicide rates four times higher than other veterans. The pain for these young men and women is real, the struggle to regain a sense of normalcy after combat-related trauma seemingly impossible. Authors have a chance to tell the stories of these young men and women, creating awareness of this epidemic so that mental illness is no longer perceived as weakness.

If you’ve read any New Adult books featuring military members who’ve suffered combat-related trauma, please share your thoughts on how the aspect of mental illness was handled. I’m always looking for realistic (but also hopeful!) portrayals of this important issue.

Post a Comment

  1. Great post! This issue is something I know so little about. Thanks for all the info!

  2. Thanks for the great post, AJ. As a military brat (child of military family), I am always pleased to see realistic military stories. PTSD and similar illnesses are relevant to many combat veterans. I applaud stories about mental illness that have positive endings, just like stories about cancer don't always have to end in death.

  3. Great post, A.J! Mental illness is tough for everyone, but it's hard when you're expected to be strong because of who you are.


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