I received the below via text recently from a veteran about her spouse who also serves.
“Shelly, this is so hard to write. Our household has been…less than our best over the past couple of months. My husband has been battling a lot of inner demons, some I knew about and some I did not. It came to a breaking point a couple of weeks ago and I told him he had to call the base medical group and ask for help…which I’m sure you know is a major taboo in the military culture…everyone is afraid of what it will do to their careers. But, he called.”
My heart skipped a beat. Then I got to the last two words of the first paragraph. He called.
I took a deep breath; a sigh of relief. Pride, fear and stigma were overcome and the “right” steps were taken to seek help. I took another breath…the tension that was just released crept back in as I read the remainder of the text.
“The receptionist for the mental health clinic on base told him because of COVID they couldn’t see him in person and the soonest telephone appointment would be three weeks out. He scheduled the future appointment and began heavily self-medicating with alcohol. He was so drunk he could barely keep his eyes open; the floor of the car was scattered with empty alcohol containers, and he had a gun inside. He doesn’t remember anything except not wanting to live.”
Despite being more than a decade into the focus on suicide prevention in the veteran and military community, we are still at the very embryonic stage of taking mental health concerns in the military community with urgency. It is not prudent or patriotic to ask service members to press pause on their acute concerns and wait for weeks to get the care they so deserve and desperately need for whole person healing.
It is our duty as Americans to do our part to make sure veterans know they are appreciated and adored, to provide assistance when asked so that all veterans know: YOU MATTER.
Join our efforts to shatter the stigma surrounding mental health care and to spread a simple, yet extremely important message – YOU MATTER – by visiting bootcampaign.org/youmatter.