The tragedy of veteran suicide is heartbreaking and all too common. In the US alone, about 20 veterans die by suicide every day. This is an issue that affects not only veterans, but their families, communities, and even strangers who care deeply about the welfare of our brave men and women in uniform. Thankfully, there are several things that people can do to help prevent veteran suicide.
Reach out and offer support
One of the most important things we can do to prevent veteran suicide is simply to reach out and offer our support. We can make sure veterans know they are not alone by checking in with them on a regular basis – even if it’s just a quick text or call –and seeing how they are doing. It’s also important for us to be proactive in connecting veterans with resources like therapy, career counselling, and other forms of assistance that may be available to them.
Educate yourself about veteran mental health issues
In order to understand how best to support veterans, it’s important that we educate ourselves about their mental health issues such as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and TBI (traumatic brain injury). Knowing more about these conditions can help us better understand what our veterans may be going through and how to best support them through their struggles. Additionally, understanding the warning signs of suicidal thoughts can help us recognize when a veteran may need extra help or intervention.
What is PTSD?
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that develops in response to experiencing a traumatic event, such as combat, natural disasters, physical or sexual violence, or the death of a loved one. The condition is characterized by persistent feelings of distress related to the trauma experienced. In addition to feeling distressed, individuals with PTSD may experience intrusive memories or flashbacks of the traumatic event(s). These memories can be triggered by everyday reminders such as certain smells, sounds, or objects.
Symptoms of PTSD
The symptoms associated with PTSD vary from person to person; however, there are some common signs that may indicate the presence of the condition. These include frequent nightmares or intrusive memories related to the trauma; difficulty sleeping; feeling emotionally numb; difficulty concentrating; avoidance of certain people’s places or activities; feeling easily startled; having difficulty managing emotions; difficulty trusting others; and engaging in reckless behaviour such as substance abuse.
Advocate for increased funding and resources
Finally, advocating for increased funding and resources for organisations dedicated to helping our nation’s veterans is one of the most impactful steps anyone can take in preventing veteran suicide.
Many times there simply isn’t enough money allocated for organizations that provide mental health care services or job training programmes specifically tailored to fit the needs of veterans returning from combat zones abroad or soldiers transitioning back into civilian life at home. Working together with other advocates or lobbying elected officials is a great way to ensure that more resources are dedicated to providing effective ways of preventing veteran suicide nationwide.
Veteran suicide prevention should be taken very seriously; it affects everyone from those currently serving in the military down to civilians who have never served themselves but still want what is best for our nation’s brave servicemen and women. Fortunately, there are many things we can do as individuals to prevent this tragedy from occurring including offering emotional support, educating ourselves about veteran mental health issues, and advocating for increased funding towards organizations aimed at helping our nation’s veterans lead healthy lives after service.
By working together as a community we can make sure no one feels alone during their time of struggle – especially those who have sacrificed so much already while serving our country proudly.
Ellen Diamond, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.