Suicide is a reality that many families face with the veterans in their lives. While we can thank these individuals for their service and show them our support, it often feels like we’re losing the battle. While the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the U.S. at 1-800-273-8255 directly connects to therapists who can help address these concerns, more needs to be done.
Make Sure You Talk Openly with Your Loved Ones
Asking someone if they feel suicidal does not make them suicidal as a result. Instead, this is a way to open up and have an honest conversation with the Veteran in your life. It is during this time, you can seek mental health professionals if necessary and find a referral who is willing to address the underlying concerns. Remember, it isn’t a weakness to feel suicidal, acknowledging it is a strong step that will allow a person to find the help they need.
Suicide Is A Real Problem
Don’t fool yourself into believing that your loved one isn’t at risk. People don’t “joke” about suicide or “aren’t serious” if they mention it. When a Veteran approaches you and states they feel suicidal, think of this as being a real concern. Unless you are a professionally trained counselor, you can’t “talk them out of it” or even “make them feel better”. With the use of proven therapy that may include mindfulness meditation and medication, it is possible for Veterans to work through their underlying concerns that are contributing to suicidal thoughts.
Combat Trauma is Bad But Not The Only Concern That Raises Suicide Risk
War trauma and suicide tend to go hand in hand. Those who have been wounded, hospitalized and even killed another person are said to have suffered from combat exposure trauma. These individuals are significantly more likely to commit suicide than those who were not in active war zones. Additionally, military sexual trauma and childhood abuse can also increase the risk of suicide in individuals who have enlisted to protect our country.
But They Are Laughing and Seem Normal
It’s true that sometimes Veterans will spend their time smiling and having what appears to be a normal life. However, it is important to listen to them and pick up on even the slightest differences. These may appear when they are drinking or using drugs and it is during these times when there is some form of impairment that they could be at a higher risk for suicide.
Our Veteran is Too Strong to Commit Suicide
Another flawed point of view that ends in heartbreak. Just because someone considers suicide does not mean that they are weak, or that they are helpless. On the contrary, this means that they are human and need a support network in place that will step in and guide them to help. After all, you are the one person they trust and if they are reaching out to you, it means they need a friend or loved one, not someone who will tell them there is nothing wrong and leave them with few options.
Don’t Push Off The Conversation
From the moment they come home, let them know you are a safe person to speak to. If they tell you that they aren’t comfortable speaking with you, help them to locate a professional in the area they can have honest discussions with. It is important to let the Veteran know just how important they are to you and there is a support network when they need it. Then you can have an open and honest conversation with them and avoid a situation where they may attempt to commit suicide.