In the United States, many of us take pride in our country with enthusiastic patriotism. We especially feel grateful (and even emotional) for all of the brave men and women who risk their lives and make great sacrifices to fight for our country and protect us from harm’s way. We love our heroes, which is why we have two major holidays for them each year, Veterans Day and Memorial Day.
However, did you know that in 2014, 7,388 veterans committed suicide? That’s a 38.4% suicide rate which averages out to about 20 suicides a day. 🙁
It’s incredibly heartbreaking and disgraceful to know that these brave men and women sacrificed so much and lost everything later on. Many may wonder why this happens. According to onceasoldier.org, the two main contributing factors are PTSD and poor VA assistance. In fact, about 70% of them didn’t receive any VA assistance at all!
In honor of Memorial Day, I wish to honor these brave souls who lost their battles and to encourage others to do what they can to help those still alive and in need.
Why Do They End Their Lives?
As a mental health advocate, and a long-term sufferer of PTSD, I can provide some insight. Just know that what I experienced does not even compare to what many of these brave souls have experienced. PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a serious anxiety disorder and a result of experiencing any type of traumatic event and feeling the psychological aftermath long afterward. It is usually diagnosed when symptoms continue to persist a month after the traumatic event. I like to think of it as the battle one continues to fight inside their head. For more information on PTSD, please check out this video that explained it to me shortly before I was officially diagnosed with it 3 years ago. You can watch it here.
To sum it up, PTSD is a devastating illness that can affect all aspects of one’s life. Just keep in mind that it’s not only caused by war but also car accidents, various forms of assault and abuse, bullying, loss of a loved one, etc. Therefore, we must not minimize anyone’s situation if it’s considered “not as bad.”
Although it can be scary and detrimental, there is hope and it can be worked through. Various forms of therapy have helped me learn to manage my symptoms and live a happy and healthy life. However, what worked for me may not work exactly for everyone else. If you or someone you love is suffering from PTSD, and you need to find a therapist, you can visit Psychology Today. If you are a veteran yourself or know any veterans in need, you may also refer to the VA’s National Center for PTSD.
Why Doesn’t Everyone Reach Out For Help?
This can be a tricky topic. The sad truth in any situation is that as much as we would love to help everyone, each individual has some level of personal responsibility for his or her own well-being. It’s like the old saying, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”
However, when it comes to strong, brave, noble heroes such as soldiers and even firefighters and law enforcement, there’s more to it. You see, society praises them, respects them, and even looks up to them. Although society, in general, has the best intentions at heart, they are unaware of the fact that many of these heroes feel pressured to maintain that strong public image to make others feel safe and secure. Little do they realize the consequences it has on themselves. This depends entirely on the individuals and their past experiences, but I’ve seen these behaviors in a lot of the veterans in my own family and friends over the years.
In other words, most of us look up to our heroes and see them as strong, fearless, and even invincible. We turn to them so much in our darkest times when we’re afraid, we fail to think about their vulnerabilities that they keep hidden from us. It’s not that we’re mean or selfish, but more so that we’re simply misinformed because we only see what’s immediately being presented to us. They aid our survival, so we adhere to them as allies who have our backs and can protect us no matter what. Luckily, with a greater awareness of some of the deeper issues and hidden scars, there are things we can do for the veterans we know and love.
How Can We Help Our Beloved Veterans?
Before we talk about things we can do as family and friends of veterans, just keep in mind that anyone battling serious mental disorders and/or addictions will require professional treatments, monitoring, and support to get positive results. Again, more information on treatment options for veterans is available at the VA’s National Center for PTSD.
As family and friends, we can offer our love and support to our beloved heroes by simply talking to them and allowing them to openly express their vulnerabilities in a safe, welcoming manner. Isolation and loneliness can be one of the worst things for a person suffering from PTSD and other disorders. Remember that maintaining a strong public image is easier on them if they have good people in their lives who can witness and accept their weak moments in the comfort of their homes with open arms.
Also, encourage them to avoid toxic relationships and situations with others, as those can trigger them, reopen wounds, and slow down the recovery process. A good support network with a healthy variety can help keep them in the right direction. Learn more about ideal support networks here. Just remember, it’s okay for anyone to be “strong enough to be weak” when necessary.
If you are a veteran currently suffering from PTSD from the war or other issues, please visit www.va.gov for helpful resources. If you’re in a crisis, you can visit www.veteranscrisisline.net. You’ve saved many of our lives, and now it’s our turn to save yours.
Lastly, anyone who wishes to help families of soldier suicide recover from financial crises, you may visit www.onceasoldier.org to make donations or even buy merch! This Memorial Day, we can honor those who are no longer with us by helping their families and spreading the word to save at-risk veterans.
To all the veterans who are reading this blog post, I cannot thank you enough for the incredible sacrifices you’ve made to protect our country. Nothing would make me happier than to help lead you to the lives of freedom and happiness you very much deserve! You are loved. <3