Recent statistics show that the Veteran Crisis Line received more than 88,000 calls, texts and chats in March – the highest amount of monthly contacts ever recorded. The question is: Why now?
Leading suicide researchers estimate that there is an 11-year gap between the initial onset of an issue and seeking help. During those 11 years, challenges continue to be compounded, making them more complex to treat. Add in world-changing events like a pandemic, drastic social isolation, the hurried pull out from Afghanistan, the Taliban takeover of Kabul, conflict in Ukraine – all of these could be contributing and compounding factors to the trauma of twenty years of war.
The long-term and lasting effects of each of the aforementioned issues are still unknown.
What we do know is that veterans are struggling. They are wrestling with years, sometimes decades, of intense trauma. They are often fighting a silent battle, in the shadows, on little sleep and without support.
Veterans like Paul Kludac who enlisted in 1999, served eight years and deployed in 2004 to support Operation Iraqi Freedom. Though I did not know him personally nor was he a client of Boot Campaign, I’ve been told Paul was a proud and loving husband and father and successful businessman. To those closest to him, there were no outward signs of life-ending struggle.
Earlier this month, on April 19, 2023, Paul took his own life. He wrote that day, “Today I am part of the 22. I have suffered with PTSD for years and my anxiety is through the roof. I have tried to get help but always find myself in this dark place. I haven’t been able to sleep for months and I hope this is the way to finally get some rest… I feel like a failure taking my own life but the demons in my mind are always haunting me. It is a struggle to go through life this way. It’s embarrassing to lose control of your mind and memory. Everyday I wake up lost and sometimes don’t want to be found.”
This story is heartbreaking. How can those who have served us all truly feel forgotten and abandoned? Lost and without purpose? Without hope?
It is our purpose at Boot Campaign to ensure that every veteran of every era knows their service, their sacrifice and most importantly their life matters. We are just one of many organizations who would gladly take the phone call, text or social media message from a struggling veteran. While we are not a crisis line, our team is standing at the ready to assist those we can and to provide resources to those who are not a fit for our programs.
The fact that there is an increase in the number of calls and messages to the suicide hotline means that veterans are reaching out. They are overcoming stigma and doing one of the most courageous things one can do: Ask for help.
And we need your support to continue to make our programs cost-free for those who need them. Let’s rally our friends, neighbors and colleagues to demonstrate our gratitude for those who serve(d) so that suicide isn’t the only and final option.
If you are so moved, take part this May, Military Appreciation Month, so that all of those who laced up our boots to protect and defend our freedoms here at home and abroad know, hear and feel two simple words: YOU MATTER. Your support will ensure that veterans seeking care get the individualized treatment they need at no cost to them.
If you or a loved one is experiencing thoughts of self-harm or suicide, you can confidentially seek assistance via the Military/Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255, via text at 838255 or chat at http://VeteransCrisisLine.net.