While you may have heard the alarming statistic that 22 veterans a day die by suicide, you may not have known that awareness of this fact alone is not an effective method of suicide prevention.
The good news is that there are brilliant leaders, clinicians, veteran service organizations, and researchers across the country working diligently and daily to help solve this national health crisis. This could not have been more evident than at the 2019 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs/U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Suicide Prevention Conference held in Nashville, Tennessee the last week of August. Over 2000 people showed up to collaborate, share promising new ways to address and prevent veteran suicide, and #BeThere to further the mission to save lives.
This most recent gathering underscored that the problem of what “causes” veteran suicide is layered, complex, and individual; however, it is widely cited that invisible wounds of war such as chronic pain, insomnia, self-medication, traumatic brain injury, and posttraumatic stress can be factors. If you have not already heard, Boot Campaign’s Health & Wellness Program attacks invisible wounds head-on to restore holistic health comprehensively, individually, and compassionately. This is just one way that Boot Campaign can #BeThere for our nation’s heroes and their families when they are in need.
But that’s not all. Research continually shows that having a feeling of connectedness with others is one of the biggest protective factors against veteran suicide, and that feeling lonely, isolated, and misunderstood can be risks. Solving this crisis is not solely in the hands of clinicians, VSO’s and researchers – each and every one of us has a responsibility to help change the course. That means taking action on an individual level, even if it is a small as reaching out to say “hi” or check on a veteran.
Monday was the start of National Suicide Prevention Week, today is World Suicide Prevention Day and September 1st heralded in Suicide Prevention Month. I challenge you this week to take a moment to stop amidst the chaos of your everyday life to ask a veteran or a family member how he or she is doing, and to truly listen with the care that lives within your heart. It is only through this intentional effort from all of us that we will start to solve the problem. Even small steps save lives. #LaceUpAmerica.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, the Veteran’s Crisis Line is a safe, confidential way to connect with a person who truly cares within seconds.
- 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1
- Text to 838255VA