As I said above, suicide is somewhat taboo in normal civilian society. In the Veteran society it's safe to say talking about is taboo. Thinking about it is more common than you would think in the Veteran community. That's two things that should change. We Veterans should talk about suicide. We should talk to someone if we ever think about committing suicide. That's one of the missions of gallantfew.org. It's called the Spartan Pledge and the basic gist of the pledge is to call your battle buddy first before you try to commit suicide. Talking about it to someone else can help you see through the dark spot you are in and help you realize that suicide is never the answer.
22 Everyday. Despite it not being a good answer EVER, approximately 22 Veterans commit suicide everyday. Think about that for a moment. within one week more than 100 Veterans end their own lives. That number is horrendous. Last week, Robin Williams committed suicide. He was a tremendous supporter of the USO and, of course, he was very big celebrity. Think about if 22 celebrities committed suicide in just one week. There would be a lot more news coverage of it, and that is part of the problem. Pop culture celebrates those who sing or swing a baseball bat well. What about the Veteran who has just come back from Afghanistan? He survived a war zone. To me, that's an achievement beyond a .374 batting average or being able to have a top 40 chart topping song.
OK, I know I can't change how everyone feels about A-Rod(who had to take drugs to perform better than other baseball players) or Kanye West (who is famous for what I am still trying to figure out), but I hope I can help change the way people look and act and deal with suicide, especially as it pertains to Veterans. I teach suicide prevention where I work and I want to dispel one major myth. You cannot talk someone into committing suicide. There. I said it. If you mention suicide it will not make someone do it. It can only help someone not do it.
While there are no definite symptoms of suicide, here is a list of warning signs for Veterans (taken from the Veterans Crisis line website):
· Appearing sad or depressed most of the time
· Clinical depression: deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating—that doesn’t go away or continues to get worse
· Feeling anxious, agitated, or unable to sleep
· Neglecting personal welfare, deteriorating physical appearance
· Withdrawing from friends, family, and society, or sleeping all the time
· Losing interest in hobbies, work, school, or other things one used to care about
· Frequent and dramatic mood changes
· Expressing feelings of excessive guilt or shame
· Feelings of failure or decreased performance
· Feeling that life is not worth living, having no sense of purpose in life
· Talk about feeling trapped—like there is no way out of a situation
· Having feelings of desperation, and saying that there’s no solution to their problems
Their behavior may be dramatically different from their normal behavior, or they may appear to be actively contemplating or preparing for a suicidal act through behaviors such as:
· Performing poorly at work or school
· Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities—seemingly without thinking
· Showing violent behavior such as punching holes in walls, getting into fights or self-destructive violence; feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge
· Looking as though one has a “death wish,” tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving fast or running red lights
· Giving away prized possessions
· Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, and/or making out a will
· Seeking access to firearms, pills, or other means of harming oneself
And don't think that there is an age where a Veteran might be contemplating suicide. According to a news article in Stripes (stripes.com) more and more younger Veterans are contemplating it as well as older Veterans. You can check out that article here.
In closing, I want to thank gallantfew.org and one of my friends on twitter @chilioffthegrid in helping me write this post. This won't be the last time I broach this topic, and I hope that I can help even if it's just one life saved. Because every Veteran's life is a life that deserves to be lived to the fullest.
That is all.
The 7th Annual SGT Jan Argonish Ride is going to be held on 7 September 2014. For more information please visit the website.