Mental health does not have to be a battle waged on your own. It’s high time we all start speaking about the suicide rates that are incredibly high among active military service members, veterans, and their families.
This National Suicide Prevention Month, We Are One! aims to spread awareness about suicide in the military and how it impacts the lives of those left behind. If you are a civilian, we encourage you to speak up for what’s important and help our dear heroes with resources so they can gain a sense of normalcy in their lives. If you are a veteran or an active military service member, we promise to get you the help and assistance you need.
Suicide Rates in the Military
Suicidal behavior in the military usually occurs when the feeling of belonging is lost. When one feels that they are not an integral part of a family or a valued group, they start having suicidal thoughts. Feeling like a burden to friends, family members, and society is also a significant factor that leads to suicide.
The ones who commit suicide are usually of the view that their loved ones would be better off without them. Sometimes, even the opportunity for self-harm leads to veteran suicide. Many veterans own firearms or have easy access to other lethal substances like medication.
According to the DoD Task Force on the Prevention of Suicide by Members of the Armed Forces, there were around 1300 active duty service member deaths by suicide between 2006 and 2010. The highest number of suicidal deaths between these years belonged to the Army and the Marine Corps. A 2012 study by the Department of Veteran Affairs reported an average of 8,000 veteran deaths by suicide each year in the United States. This equals 22 veteran suicide deaths each day!
The Impact of Veteran Suicide on Military Families
Every suicidal death leaves loved ones behind who try to pick up the pieces and make sense of the entire situation. These are usually family members and friends who are often left with feelings of guilt and shame. They may start questioning whether they could have played a role in preventing the suicide or whether they are somehow to blame. This takes a toll on their mental health, and many seek therapy to overcome the loss of a loved one by suicide.
Immediate family members of the deceased military members or veterans also face unexpected financial burdens. When coupled with funeral expenses, the loss of potential income of the deceased leads to a rather unfortunate situation for the family.
Children, in particular, are highly impacted by the suicide of a family member. They tend to grow up with anxiety and PTSD, which can hinder their performance in their studies and extracurricular activities.
Supporting Veterans and Active Military Members
The Veterans Crisis Line is a free and confidential 24/7 hotline for veterans and their families. Since its launch in 2007, the hotline has responded to more than 1.25 million calls and made more than 39,000 rescues.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, dial +1(800)-273-8255 right away to speak with someone.
If you know a struggling military service member or veteran, here are some concerning suicidal behaviors that you should look out for:
- Mood swings
- Engagement in dangerous activities
- Increasing substance abuse (alcohol/drugs)
- Withdrawing from friends and family
If you notice one or more of these signs, start a conversation with them. Stay calm and let the person know you want to help them. Please don’t leave them alone. Instead, listen to them, express your concern and reassure them.
Let the person know you care about them and take their situation seriously. Assure them that you will help them establish a support system. Ask them calmly if they have access to anything that could harm them, and call The Veteran’s Crisis Line for help at +1(800)-273-8255 immediately if you feel the situation is dangerous.
Join We Are One! This National Suicide Prevention Month
This National Suicide Prevention Month, join We Are One! in fighting the taboos associated with mental health so you can play a part in reducing the rates of veteran suicide. Look around you and if you see someone struggling, get them the help they need and deserve. Pledge yourself that you will support military service members, veterans, and their families in any way you can, such as donating to We Are One! Click here to donate today.