09/20/2013 11:00 am ET Updated Nov 20, 2013

Suicide And The Military

There has been some recent concern about an increase in the number of suicides among our active-duty and veteran population. Suicide is a very preventable tragedy, and we must look at how to control depression; to control suicidal behavior. People who are depressed, have very low self-esteem. I hear a lot of veterans talk about their lack of self-esteem. Let's look at this thing call self-esteem, and how we can nurture a positive self-esteem for ourselves. Our goal is to reverse this high number of suicides among our brothers and sisters.

Basically, self-esteem as our image, or how we feel about ourselves. Our self-esteem is usually described in terms of worth, or worthlessness; and in our successes or failures. If we have a high self-esteem, then we see ourselves in a positive and realistic light. We are flexible, able to accept life's difficulties, place them in to a proper perspective, and continue on with life.

On the other hand, if we view ourselves and a negative in unrealistic light, then we have low self-esteem. This means we feel ineffective, worthless, incompetent, hopeless and unloved. In other words, we don't like ourselves. This can turn into a vicious cycle: we have a distorted and negative view of ourselves and others, which makes us feel unhappy and depressed. This develops into a lack of self-confidence, and we end up being poor performers. This confirms our negative and distorted view of ourselves. I call this "stinking thinking." The ultimate act of a depressed person is suicide.

Fortunately, this cycle can be broken. It does require some basic motivation, and desire to feel better. Anyone reading this article now has been through basic training in the military, so I know that you have the basic motivation to change.

Not all people have a positive view of themselves all the time. That's almost asking too much. Even the most confident people, at times, may tend to focus on their shortcomings. That's good! By attending to our shortcomings, we have the opportunity to evaluate ourselves and seek improvement. We are able to keep our shortcomings in a realistic perspective, and not devote our life to them.

But how do we start to feel more confident about ourselves? There's something we all have, regardless if we have a positive or negative view of ourselves. It's called our silent conversations, inner voice, thoughts or self-talk. It is that "little person" inside us that is always talking to us, usually in sentence form. If we can change some of the sentences from the negative to the positive, then we have started to feel better about ourselves.

You have heard the saying "you are which you eat." I think our self-image is based on the saying "you are what you think." If we think we are worthless and unloved, then this self-fulfilling prophecy is usually fulfilled. Conversely, if we think we're basically good people, and realistically acknowledge some of our positive qualities, than our self view has been enhanced.

How can we start focusing on our positive aspects about ourselves? Start by listing six of the qualities you like about ourselves. Can't think of six? Then try for five. If you cannot think of any, ask a trusted friend or family member why he or she likes you. This should get you started.

Be objective. Your "like list" about yourself may initially be why others like you, but soon you may start to believe it yourself. A key element is to be realistic. Don't sell yourself short. On the other hand, don't give yourself abilities that you don't realistically have. Remember the old Army slogan, "Be All You Can Be." Don't be more than you can be, and certainly don't be less than you can be.

Once should have your list, keep reading it to yourself, or read it out loud. We cannot think something positive and negative at the same time. By reading the positive and realistic aspects about ourselves, we are not focusing on the negatives. If we do this continually, we are starting to change our self-concept about ourselves.

Remember, I said it takes motivation in courage to change our self-esteem. It takes motivation to practice this on a regular basis. Go ahead -- take the "can-do" attitude. An important thing for us to remember is to give ourselves credit when we accomplish something positive, regardless of how big or small it is. Reward yourself. We can always expect others to reward us, so give yourself up out on the back and smile. If we can regain control of our self-esteem and depression, then the statistics about veteran suicides will hopefully decrease significantly.

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

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.