Family matters. Friendship matters. Support matters. Every Veteran matters.
For each of us, life is given meaning by a variety of different things that matter: family, friends, relationships, job or interests. And though these things may differ for each of us, they are also what connect us to each other and provide purpose and inspiration each day.
Sometimes, stress, trauma or everyday demands may lead us to forget the things that matter. For Veterans the added stressors of readjustment and combat experience add to the problem. For some Veterans there are added complications such as PTSD or Brain Injuries. Sometimes, something as simple as talking to a Veteran can help them open the door and rediscover what matters most in their life. Whether the Veteran you know has just returned home, or they served years ago, you can be there to support them and help them remember what matters. You can provide that bridge from hopelessness and despair to treatment and hope for the future.
September is Suicide Prevention Month and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) have chosen the theme It Matters to encourage Veterans and their loved ones to focus on the things that give life meaning--the things that matter most to them. For each of us, that represents something different. For me, it's spending time with my father, a World War II Veteran, and honoring him by dedicating myself to the VA services that support Veterans in crisis. For others, it may be spending time with their family and friends, playing a round of golf, creating a delicious meal or participating in community events. During this Suicide Prevention Month, I encourage each of you to reach out to a Veteran you know and show them They Matter.
If you're concerned about the Veteran in your life, lending a hand doesn't have to be hard. Regardless of the challenges they may be experiencing, VA is there to support them in their time of need. Remind them that there is no shame in seeking help. Help from the Veterans Crisis Line is only a call, chat, or text away.
The Veterans Crisis Line is a free, confidential resource that Veterans and their family and friends can access any day, any time. Trained professionals at the Veterans Crisis Line--many of them Veterans themselves--are ready to listen, providing free, confidential support, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Since launching in 2007, the Veterans Crisis Line has answered more than 890,000 calls and made more than 30,000 life-saving rescues. Since adding its Chat and Text service, there have been over 108,000 chats and 10,000 texts.
In addition, VA's vast network of Suicide Prevention Coordinators, located at all 151 VA facilities across the country, work with the Veterans Crisis Line responders to provide local support to Veterans who have made the call, chat, or text.
Over the course of this month, you'll be hearing from a VA Veterans Crisis Line responder and Suicide Prevention Coordinator so they can talk about supporting Veterans from their unique perspectives. I encourage you to reach out and talk to the Veterans you know and to be aware of signs of suicide risk. It Matters.
The first step in preventing suicide is understanding the warning signs; people may show signs of risk before considering harming themselves. Warning signs include:
- Hopelessness, feeling like there's no way out
- Anxiety, agitation, sleeplessness, or mood swings
- Feeling like there's no reason to live
- Rage or anger
- Engaging in risky activities without thinking
- Increasing alcohol or drug abuse
- Withdrawing from family and friends
The presence of the following signs requires immediate attention:
- Thinking about hurting or killing yourself
- Looking for ways to kill yourself
- Talking about death, dying or suicide
- Self-destructive behavior such as drug abuse, weapons, etc.
If you notice these warning signs, tell a Veteran about the Veterans Crisis Line, or make the call yourself. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online at www.VeteransCrisisLine.net, or text to 838255 for free, confidential support, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
This Suicide Prevention Month, let our Veterans know they're not alone.
You can show you care. It Matters.
This post is part of a special Huffington Post series, "Invisible Casualties," in which we shine a spotlight on suicide-prevention efforts within the military. Every weekday in September, we'll feature a different blog post by someone who is either an expert in the field, who has been affected by a suicide, or who has contemplated suicide. To see all the posts in the series, as well as original reporting, audio and video, click here.
If you or someone you know would like to contribute to our series, send an email to email@example.com.
And please, if you or someone you know needs help, call the national crisis line for the military and veterans, 1-800-273-8255, or send a text to 838255.