The military is a collection of armed forces that has its own rules, regulations, and structure service members have to follow. Most would say that military life is a whole different way of living. It can be difficult when veterans transition back into civilian life, as they have to adjust to functioning back in society.
While vets naturally face the common struggle of depression, isolation, and loneliness while transitioning to civilian life, women face their own unique set of challenges. These include gender pay gaps, military trauma, lack of childcare, and stereotypes. Studies have shown that due to these challenges and the lack of transition resources, women have a harder time leaving the military and returning to civilian life.
Challenges Women Veterans Face
Many women vets say that leaving the military is hard because they go from living a purpose-driven life to having to find out where they now belong in society. While going through a drastic change may be difficult for anyone, there are a few unique struggles women vets face that make their transition especially difficult as compared to their male counterparts.
Lack of Support
Society often fails to acknowledge women as veterans in the same manner as male vets. While many veteran support groups and resources exist, they often cater more to male vets and fail to address the needs of women. The lack of support for women once they leave the military and their transition back into civilian life can lead to isolation and loneliness.
Women tend to require a sense of community and relationships more than men do due to the societal roles that have been placed on them. Roles like being a primary caregiver and motherhood can lead to needing a higher level of both physical and emotional support. Studies have shown that the quality and quantity of connections we have play a role in our sense of belonging and self-worth.
Lack of Childcare or Assistance
Women are more likely to be single parents than their male counterparts and often serve as the primary or only caregivers. With the lack of financial resources or steady income, caring for a child becomes an even more difficult job. With the hopes of returning to school or obtaining a full-time job, childcare and assistance will be needed.
Finding housing, gaining financial stability, and caregiving can feel like it quickly becomes the main focus of women vets’ everyday life. Having to pursue an education while looking for childcare is difficult. With the rising cost of both schooling and childcare services, the lack of income can become more strenuous when deciding which commitment is more important.
One of the biggest challenges that women face when leaving the service is financial instability. There are various reasons why they face financial instability, including:
- Gender pay gap
- Financial illiteracy
- Lack of healthcare
- Minimum wage jobs
Women find the financial transition from the military more difficult than men because they experience more of a loss of income. Once returning back to society, they could earn the same level of education and qualifications as men but make significantly less. They may also have greater financial responsibilities than men that add an extra financial strain, such as childcare.
Women vets have different social and psychological experiences than typical women or men vets. In the military, it is essential to develop a headstrong personality to keep up with the demands and structure of the environment. Returning back to society can cause a clash for women who don’t show the stereotypical traits that society expects from women. They may show stronger leadership skills that people may not be accustomed to and can come across as intimidating. When they don’t conform to these expectations, it can cause them to feel like fitting into society is a lot harder than the typical woman.
Issues like financial instability and lack of transitional resources cause women to face disproportionate rates of homelessness as compared to male vets. As they return to civilian life, they are soon met with the reality that they might not have all of the qualifications to quickly find housing, childcare, schooling, or steady income. Women often face many instances of sexual trauma in the field and face retaliation from superiors. In turn, they leave service early and don’t understand that they are signing away their benefits.
Support For Women Veterans
Women vets often feel like their life experience is different than others, which can cause them to feel like they don’t have anyone to talk to or relate to. This can lead to both depression and isolation along with other mental disorders. To cope with these uncomfortable feelings, they can turn to unhealthy strategies, such as drug use or self-harm, which can exacerbate these feelings.
Finding the right resources can help women veterans tackle mental health and substance use concerns, financial literacy, and grow a support system. Recovery treatment centers that have programs specifically for women allow women vets to get assistance for developing issues like mental illness or addiction. It’s important for women vets to have a place where they can receive medical and psychiatric support as well as find podcasts, blogs, books, and support groups that can help them create a better future for themselves and their loved ones.
Leaving the military can be both physically and psychologically difficult for veterans. It can lead to issues like depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders that can make the transition back into everyday life more difficult. If you are a women veteran struggling with addiction and mental health issues, know that there is help out there for you. At Spero, we work to make sure that despite financial or insurance circumstances, our patients get the highest level of care possible. We know that a crucial aspect of recovery for women is gaining a support system and building a community. Our treatment is peer-led and facilitated with guidance from our clinical director, which helps offer a deeper feeling of community. If you are in need of an affordable and quality treatment facility, give us a call at (303) 351-7888 today to learn more about our residential program.