Veteran suicide is a brewing epidemic that has the complete attention of the U.S. government. The Veterans Administration estimates that 22 Veterans are committing suicide each day, many suffering from the paralyzing grip of PTSD symptoms.
Over 8,000 active and discharged service members are killing themselves each year, more than the amount of combat deaths suffered by the U.S. in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
We’re still losing troops to the War on Terror, the wounds invisible until it’s too late.
What many don’t know is that this can easily be prevented.
We’re sitting back silently and not helping an entire generation of men and women, many of whom completed multiple combat tours in a brutal guerrilla war.
Indiana Senator (D) Joe Donnelly will introduce legislation today in Congress that would require service members to get annual mental health check ups. The bill is titled the Jacob Sexton Military Suicide Prevention Act.
Sexton was a 21 year old National Guardsman on a 15 day leave from Afghanistan when he committed suicide in an Indiana movie theater.
There’s a saying “everyone deployed”. That goes for civilians too. You most likely know a Veteran who served in the last decade.
Here’s how you can help according to psychologists from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America:
3. Recommend Anonymous Resources
There’s an inescapable stigma attached to admitting something is wrong in the warrior culture. From the second you join the military, it’s ingrained that suffering and pain are part of the job. You learn to endure incredible hardship just to get by.
Thankfully the DOD makes it convenient and anonymous to any Vet who needs to talk or get help when something feels off. It doesn’t matter if something appears wrong or not, point the Veteran in your life to these free anonymous resources. There’s someone available to talk or chat 24/7.
2. Perform A Battle Check
In the Army you often refer to fellow soldiers as “Battle” short for “Battle Buddy”. Everyone must be squared away in an effective unit, the deficiencies of one are the responsibility of all. The Battle Buddy system was actually designed by the military to improve morale and better identify suicidal tendencies in active duty soldiers.
Your Battle Buddy still needs you after being discharged. There are fantastic programs organized on social media pages like Veterans PTSD Project and Stop Soldier Suicide that encourage Vets and civilians alike to perform Battle Checks on their friends who served.
Give the Vet in your life a call. Send ’em an email, Facebook message, text, Snap Chat. However you prefer to communicate, just don’t forget about them. Picking up your phone may save a life.
1. Ask For The Weapon
I know this is hard to stomach on a blog titled Team AR-15, but sometimes people need to have their weapons taken from them. It’s necessary when mental health is a concern. Veterans recovering from depression have acknowledged the benefit of having someone in their life willful enough to extend a hand and demand a weapon.
If outright giving up a weapon is out of the question, the VA offers free gun locks while admitting locks are only a temporary fix. Treatment and therapy the only successful long term method used to treat PTSD.
8,000+ former and current soldiers are committing suicide annually, the vast majority dying by gun shot. Asking for a weapon is a small indignity to save someone’s life.
Admitting something is wrong no longer a confession of weakness, rather strength. Take time out of your day to show gratitude to a Veteran in your life, no matter how distant they are. It’s time to repay a generation of millennials who sacrificed so much, for so little. All they need is a voice of concern.
Veteran suicide is no longer just a problem, it’s full blown crisis not going away unless we all pitch in.
Remember, everyone deployed.