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HPRC Fitness Arena: Family & Relationships

World Suicide Prevention Day

World Suicide Prevention Day is on September 10. Know what to say and how to help a suicidal family member, friend, or colleague.

Suicide is preventable if you know the warning signs, what to say, and who to contact for help. This is why this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day theme is “Connect, Communicate, Care.” Over 800,000 people die by suicide worldwide each year. Someone you know might be in crisis if he or she:

  • Directly expresses wanting to die.
  • Talks about feeling hopeless or trapped, having no reason to live, or being a burden to others.
  • Isolates himself or herself and withdraws from relationships.
  • Experiences sleep problems, mood and behavior swings, anxiety, frustration, or recklessness.

If you suspect someone is suicidal, take action by addressing your concerns directly, while also staying calm and empathetic. Try saying:

  • “I noticed you’ve mentioned a few times how hopeless you feel. Let’s talk more about that.”
  • “You don’t seem as happy or engaged as you used to be. And you spend most of your time alone in your room. This has me concerned.”
  • “Are you thinking of ending your life?”
  • “Do you have thoughts of hurting yourself?”
  • “I’m worried because I care so much about you and want you to know help is available. Let’s figure this out together.”

While someone’s pain might not always be obvious, knowing the signs and feeling confident you can find the words to address your concerns is essential. If you’re a parent worried about your child’s or teen’s suicidal thoughts or behaviors, know what to look for. And if your children were exposed to a family member’s suicide attempt, talk with them about it.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) website offers good information and helpful resources. Also, Military OneSource offers support and services to improve your friend, colleague, or loved one’s mental health and well-being. If you feel someone is experiencing a potentially life-threatening problem, contact the Military Crisis Line online or call 800-273-8255 and press “1,” or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline online or by phone at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) also has a 24/7 Outreach Center featuring a hotline, email, chat, and phone number. And visit HPRC’s Suicide Prevention page. In an emergency, please dial 911.

Set and attain team goals

Warfighters know it’s important that their units/groups stick together. Find out how cooperating with others and setting team goals help achieve team success.

Team goals matter—whether you’re serving your unit, making decisions as a family, or coaching sports. There are a lot of factors that can lead to your group’s success or failure too. Your group’s cohesiveness—or ability to remain united while pursuing your objectives—can make all the difference as your team works to achieve its goals.

Cohesiveness has other advantages too: Those who get along socially or work well together benefit from improved job satisfaction and overall well-being. Here are some tips to help build and maintain team/unit cohesion.

  • When you’re in charge, be sure to set clear, achievable goals for the whole group. And encourage teammates to set their own goals too.
  • Communicate clearly: Give clear expectations for roles, performance, and deadlines—and offer praise.
  • Minimize conflict and build trust by showing interest and concern for each other.
  • Value connections within the team as well as between units and organizations.
  • Focus on your group’s strengths, not just its problems and challenges.
  • Build resilience at individual and group levels.

Sometimes personal goals interfere with the group’s success, causing its performance to suffer. When individuals set goals that contribute to the group’s overall purpose, bigger successes follow. Make sure your personal goals fit into the “bigger picture” of your team’s success.

Setting team goals is even more important for leaders. Teammates often take cues from their leader, whether he or she is a commanding officer, parent, or coach. Effective leaders—especially those who focus on the group’s mission—help their groups define clear aims and set important personal goals as well.

Set your own goals to help your team succeed. And when you’re in charge, share your “big picture” goals with the group! 

Your child and the HPV vaccine

Are you considering the HPV vaccine for your child? Learn how it helps prevent cervical cancer and other illnesses.

The Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine can effectively prevent some sexually-transmitted infections that cause genital warts and certain cancers in men and women. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends routine HPV vaccinations for kids ages 11–12, but those as young as 9 also can be vaccinated. The vaccine is most effective for those who receive the full 3-dose series.

HPV, the most common sexually-transmitted infection in the U.S., can develop into certain forms of cancer. It’s estimated there are 79 million HPV-infected individuals and another 14 million new HPV infections annually. In most cases, the symptom-free virus goes away on its own. However, for unknown reasons, HPV infection can persist, causing cervical cancer and other vaginal, vulvar, and anal cancers. It’s also linked to cancers of the tonsils and tongue.

In 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a vaccine that protects against the 4 most harmful strains of HPV. Studies show the HPV vaccine works. It prevents genital warts, some precancers, and cervical and other cancers associated with these harmful strains. Mandatory HPV-cancer prevention vaccination programs have resulted in lower rates of HPV-related diseases and cancers in other countries too. 

While many teens and adults are open to their health care providers’ recommendations for getting vaccinated, low immunization rates still exist. As more kids and adults get vaccinated, the rate of HPV-related cancers is expected to drop. Since the HPV vaccine is relatively new, it’s also recommended that females (ages 13–26) and males (ages 13–21) who haven’t been previously vaccinated “catch up” and get protected.

Since TriCare coverage includes most types of the HPV vaccine, contact your kids’ health care provider (or your own, if you’re considering getting vaccinated) to discuss options. For more information, read the CDC’s recommendations for vaccinating your teen or pre-teen. And visit the National Cancer Institute’s HPV Vaccines page.

Sex, sexuality, and intimacy resources

HPRC has a new section about sex, sexuality, and intimacy. Read up on articles, FAQs, and other resources to help maintain intimacy in your relationship.

Sex and other intimate behaviors are natural parts of life and important to maintaining a healthy relationship with your partner. Learn about the health benefits of sex and how to build intimacy—in and out of the bedroom—and much more in HPRC’s new Sex, Sexuality & Intimacy section. And find answers to frequently asked questions about common sexual problems, how to spice up your sex life, and other sex and intimacy issues affecting service members. You’ll find links to other helpful resources about sexual health and intimacy too.

Be sure to check out the Sex, Sexuality & Intimacy section. And if you have other questions or suggestions about content, contact us using our Ask the Expert feature.

Back-to-school ABCs for Total Family Fitness

Filed under: Family, Kids, School
School starts soon! Find out how to make a Total Family Fitness transition back to school this fall.

As summer vacation comes to an end, the transition back to school is just around the corner. Now’s the time to review the ABCs of a Total Family Fitness transition back to school: Awareness, Bedtime, Calmness, Diet, and Exercise. This is your chance to lay a foundation for your family’s healthy habits throughout the school year. HPRC's Total Family Fitness approach focuses on the health, wellness, and resilience of your family. It can help optimize and strengthen your family’s performance by integrating strategies that impact their mind, body, relationships, and environment—many of the same strategies used in the Total Force Fitness model for Warfighters. Read more...

Supplements for concussions?

Don’t fall for dietary supplement products claiming to help with concussions.

Two-a-day practices have started for teens in fall sports. One big issue is concussion education: learning the signs of a concussion and then what to do if you actually have one—or if someone you know does. Several dietary supplement manufacturers have promoted products to help with recovery from concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), but there isn’t enough scientific evidence to support these claims. If you suffer from a concussion or TBI, make sure you follow your doctor’s orders for recovery. And if you have children involved in sports, watch them for possible signs.

FDA warns consumers to avoid using products that claim to prevent or treat a concussion or TBI. For more information, read FDA’s Consumer Update on dietary supplements and concussions.


Telling kids about their parent’s injury

Talking with your children about their other parent’s injury can be hard because there’s no good way to share bad news. Find out what helps ease the conversation.

Returning home after a deployment can be exciting but stressful. Still, coming home might present even greater challenges, especially when a service member is injured. Explaining an injury—either visible or invisible—to your children can seem overwhelming, but there are ways to help them cope with things.

It’s normal to worry about your children’s reaction to physical or mental injuries. If possible, talk with them about their other parent’s injuries before your family reunites. Children, family dynamics, and injuries are all unique. So, keep these in mind during your talk:

  • Use age-appropriate words to describe the other parent’s injury. For example, what you say to your six-year-old is different than what you discuss with your sixteen-year-old.
  • Talk about what happened. Be honest when explaining the injury, how it occurred, and any expectations about recovery. Not knowing what’s going on might cause kids to imagine scary, wrong, or bad things.
  • Give it time. Everyone responds differently to difficult news. Don’t force things. Be patient with your kids and yourself too. Support your children however they respond. And encourage them to share their feelings and ask questions.
  • Be a role model. Children take cues from their parents. If you cope well with your service member’s treatment, your kids are more likely to as well.
  • Reassure your children. They’ll want to know that even though their injured parent looks or acts differently, he or she is still the same person who loves and cares about them.

Remember: There’s no perfect explanation you can give your children. What’s most important? Talk, listen, and avoid judging their responses. And visit HPRC’s Returning Home/Reintegration and Post-Deployment sections to learn more.

Co-parenting after divorce

Divorce is a big adjustment for many kids. Learn how to co-parent after your marriage ends.

Divorce often means big changes for a family. When kids are involved, it’s essential to put their needs first and help them feel secure.

Children are less likely to feel stigmatized or “labeled” by their parents’ breakup since divorce is more common and acceptable today. Still, the changes that go along with it often result in some stress and pain for a family. Children might experience sadness, worry, regret, and longing for the family to remain intact. After learning that their parents plan to divorce, most kids go through some short-term behavioral or emotional issues too. However, most adjust well to their new family structure and tend to improve their behavior over the long term. Read more...

Free summer fun for military families

Take advantage of free admission to national parks and over 2,000 museums and nature centers this summer. Grab your kids and go!

Plan some indoor and outdoor adventures with your kids this summer and enjoy free admission to national parks and museums across the country. Hiking, camping, and learning activities are good for their minds and bodies. 

The amount of time children spend outdoors is steadily decreasing. Kids now spend more time inside—staring at screens—and less time outside. Your feelings about outdoor recreation likely impact how much time your kids spend outside too. Still, children who camp and hike tend to have more positive attitudes towards nature and the environment. Those who enjoy the outdoors tend to enjoy it as adults too.

Kids get more exercise at parks and playgrounds. So, shake things up by taking them to any national park: Free annual passes are available to current U.S. service members and their families, as well as Reserve and National Guard members.

Military families also can enjoy free admission to over 2,000 nature centers and art, science, history, and children’s museums through Labor Day. Museums encourage active learning and impact kids’ social and mental development. Little ones especially enjoy hands-on activities, interactive exhibits, and new learning experiences with their parents at children’s museums. And it keeps them on the go.

Pack water and snacks, plan your route, practice safe sun, and get out there!

Premarital education helps marriages last

What helps an “I do” last forever? Find out what couples can gain from a premarital education program.

Premarital education programs can help couples maintain the satisfaction they feel early on in their relationship—and thrive in the long run. In the bliss of an engagement, couples often don’t think about future challenges they might face.

Premarital counseling offers a neutral place where engaged couples and newlyweds can learn about communication, conflict resolution, commitment, and ways to manage expectations. Couples learn to convey the importance of their relationship and focus on what’s necessary to create a loving and lasting marriage. Programs are adapted into various formats: Couples can attend a group workshop or meet privately with a counselor or religious leader.

After completing the program, many couples are more open to resolving conflict. Premarital counseling tends to lower a married couple’s risk of divorce. Or it can help unmarried couples decide whether to move forward with their marriage plans.

Don’t rule out premarital education, even if it’s your second marriage. Most divorced people eventually remarry. However, second marriages are even more likely to end in divorce than first ones.

Explore various marriage education programs to find one that’s right for you. Make sure to check with your installation office too. Another option is to ask your chaplain or religious leader about enrolling in a faith-based program. Or search for a local marriage and family therapist who specializes in premarital counseling. 

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