By Marguerite Cleveland
According to a Department of Veterans Affairs, the average number of veterans who died by suicide is 20 per day. It is an appalling number and one that just hits too close to home. My first experience occurred when a young soldier who lived in our neighborhood committed suicide. I didn’t know him, but it broke my heart that this young man lived down the street from me was suffering so much.
Sometimes everything is done correctly by those that support a soldier or veteran and they still commit suicide. One situation that still haunts me is of a more senior NCO who was in treatment for PTSD and suicidal thoughts. The unit deployed again and he remained behind as part of the rear detachment so he could continue treatment. He ended up committing suicide in the safe space at the mental health facility on post. Needless to say everyone who knew him from his doctors, members of the rear detachment and his family were devastated. At the time, to help me deal with the situation and to help others in the unit, I spoke to a person who had lost his wife to suicide. He told me that it is not about us. Sometimes someone is in so much pain they just want it to stop.
So what can we do about this statistic? Is there anything the average person can do to help? As a matter of fact there is. Consider taking the free online course S.A.V.E. offered by the PsychArmor Institute. The simple steps of S.A.V.E. which stands for Signs, Ask, Validate, Encourage and Expedite, offer simple steps anyone can take when talking with Veterans at risk for suicide. The course was developed by the PsychArmor Institute in collaboration with the Department of Veterans Affairs. The course is presented by Dr. Megan McCarthy, Deputy Director, Suicide Prevention. According to McCarthy, “You will develop a general understanding of the problem of suicide in the United States; understand how to identify a Veteran who may be at risk for suicide; and, finally, know what to do if you identify a Veteran at risk. Each of us has the opportunity to be that one person who makes a difference–the person who asks the question that can save a Veteran’s life, or the life of anyone struggling with the thoughts of suicide. Using the simple steps of S.A.V.E., we can all make a difference and #BeThere.”
Sometimes with a problem so big it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Even just small steps like donating to an organization that helps prevent Veteran Suicide or just listening to someone who needs to talk can make a difference.
Marguerite Cleveland is a freelance writer who specializes in human interest and travel stories. She is a military brat, a veteran and now a military spouse. Her military experience is vast as the daughter of a Navy man who served as an enlisted sailor and then Naval Officer. She served as an enlisted soldier in the reserves and on active duty, then as an Army Officer. She currently serves as a military spouse. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two sons. Visit her website www.WanderWordsWine.com