Program keeps military spouses HomeFront Strong

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published September 21, 2016

METRO DETROIT — Spouses and romantic partners of military members and veterans who have served since 9/11 might find themselves feeling anxious, depressed or isolated when their loved one is deployed or returning to civilian life after service.

Those feeling down and looking for support are encouraged to participate in a free eight-week program called HomeFront Strong. It is being offered through the University of Michigan Health Systems’ Depression Center and Department of Psychiatry, which is under the Military Support Programs and Networks and based in Ann Arbor.

M-SPAN is partnering with Easter Seals to bring the program to Easter Seals facilities in Center Line and Southfield. HomeFront Strong representatives are currently recruiting participants with programs scheduled to begin in the next four to six weeks. Specific dates of when the programs in each city will begin has not yet been determined. The Southfield Easter Seals is located at 22170 W. Nine Mile Road. The Center Line Easter Seals facility’s address is 6900 E. 10 Mile Road.

The group is open to spouses or romantic partners of post-9/11 National Guard, reserve, or active-duty service members or veterans. HomeFront Strong is funded by a Department of Defense grant. A different topic is discussed every week.

The program — facilitated by licensed counselors and social workers — focuses on building resilience and positive coping strategies. It’s a place where participants can openly discuss the challenges they are facing with military life.

“It allows them to connect with people who really get it,” Project Coordinator Jodi Goodman said. “It’s a structured program (that covers) stress management, positive coping, changing negative thought patterns and how to become more optimistic. Some deal with physical feelings.”

Separate sessions have already been held: one in Warren, one in Walled Lake and three in Ann Arbor. The sessions generally last two hours, beginning at 5:30 p.m. with a free dinner. The programs begin at 6 p.m. and end at 7:30 p.m.

“Overall, they were incredibly successful. All the feedback has been very positive,” Goodman said. “People really felt their stress was reduced. They felt like they were supported. There (were) reductions in depression and anxiety symptoms.”

“War has carried a lot of weight these past 15 years,” said HomeFront Strong Outreach Coordinator Rebecca Couch, who added that candidates are screened to ensure they are a good match for the program and meet its criteria.

There is a free child group for those who have children. For individuals not comfortable with meeting in person or who might be too far away, a web-based option is available to participate from home.

Although Couch has not been a program participant, she knows the value of HomeFront Strong because she is the spouse of a military veteran. Her husband, Gabriel Couch, served two tours of duty in Iraq, which totaled a deployment of 27 months in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne. The couple were not married during his deployment, which turned out to be a positive because when the soldier returned home, he needed time to adjust.

“He needed a year to decompress,” Couch said.  The couple are now married and raising a family.

“I am so proud of my husband’s service,” Couch said. “I just feel very fortunate to be able to give back to this community.”

For more information or to participate in HomeFront Strong, call (734) 998-5849 or visit m-span.org.