The suicide rate among our veterans is alarming. That rate has been climbing steadily for the past twenty years. Last year there were a record 541 suicides reported by active duty personnel alone. The number of suicides among veterans is sometimes a very elusive number to measure as many cannot be confirmed due to various circumstances.
Our military has been engaged in active combat theatre operations for over twenty years, the longest continuous deployments in our country’s history. Many have served multiple deployments. Asymmetrical warfare has created a very different level of stress and the incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) have skyrocketed and as a result the Veterans Administration has been overwhelmed by veterans seeking services.
Most of us have family members and friends who are or have served in the military. All of us know that military service requires great sacrifice and dedication and we owe all those who serve or have served our gratitude. Our support and encouragement are powerful expressions of that gratitude.
Military culture has struggled with how to deal with mental health issues, much like our civilian culture in general has also struggled. Recognition, empathy, encouragement, and support are issues in both cultures. In order to truly be of service to each other, we need to be aware and accepting. All too often, mental health issues can be isolative and this exacerbates these issues.
“If you see something, say something” has become a very familiar phrase to us all. It is time for us all to truly do just that. If we see something that is a concern, we should voice that concern. Often, just acknowledging an issue gives permission to address that issue. Saying nothing gives that issue permission to continue and it also labels it as something that is negative. Mental health issues have often been in the shadows; it is time that we bring them into the light.
And always be sure to say thank you to those who have served.
Jim Harger, M.Ed., LPC
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