January 14, 2018
Exactly what do you think you know about PTSD and suicide? If you're an average user of social media, the chances are you really don't know very much. If you watch the news, then you really don't know much more than they do, and that is pretty close to zilch since reporters never seem to ask any questions.
I fight with them all the time so they get some kind of understanding beyond what they think they need to know. They keep pushing the "easy to remember number" of 22 or 20 a day, without ever understanding what they should have known before they decided to cover the subject.
You can read all the facts on my other site, Combat PTSD Wounded Times, but keeping this a positive page, I'll leave that out. We can't change the outcome without changing what we do and learning a hell of lot more than what we learned the easy way. To catch up look below for some links.
PTSD and suicides are complicated subjects. They are also depressing as hell to spend time on. Maybe that is part of the problem. Veterans surviving combat then killing themselves is heartbreaking. Everyone wants to do something, but few know what to do.
If you are a veteran or family member, here is what you need to know.
There is a battle going on right now between what you hear and think you know, against what is really known about the battles veterans fight everyday.
They are fighting to stay alive. They hold onto the hope that day will come, change their lives again, so they can feel better about surviving war.
These guys are the reason I do what I do and have done for the last 35 years. Vietnam veterans did not just teach me about PTSD, but they taught me what love really is. It cannot be measured by what most civilians limit it to. Beyond that, it is measured by what they were willing to do for each other.
I grew up surrounded by veterans, but I was blind to how uncommon they were until it dawned on me most of my friends did not have anyone who served in the military. I did not know anything about Vietnam veterans, other than what I heard, until I met and fell in love with one of them. They became my obsession.
The first thing to understand is that there are different causes. There is what civilians face, but then the additional threats of life come with the jobs of far too many. Here at home, we have first responders. They are members of law enforcement, fire departments, emergency crews and members of the National Guards/Reservists.
They face the same things we do, but for them, the crisis they have to deal with is everyday for them. Often multiple times a day and when it isn't happening, they know it can happen at every moment. When they are not on duty, they are worrying about the others on duty. On duty, they worry about their families back at home, especially when they are on duty during a natural disaster. Forest fires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, demand their attention but they know their own family could be in danger while they take care of the rest of their communities.
For deployed military service members, it is the same fear but topped off with the additional stressful occupation that keeps them on edge facing bombs and bullets. They also have to endure the environmental conditions, endless hours, lack of sleep, little rest and the constant threat to their lives.
Veterans of all these occupations do their best to leave it behind them, but it all comes with them. They manage to stay busy until they retire and then it all hits them. Veterans over the age of 50 are 65% of the suicides because of isolation, lack of obligations on their time and what makes it worse for them is they never expected it would hit them. They didn't know it was there all along.
You may be wondering what you can do to make a difference. First, if you come across any link with "suicide awareness" and a number of "22" or "20" referring to the number of veterans they think are committing suicide, leave a very simple comment. "Why didn't you even bother to read the report?"
Leave them the link to the first VA suicide report with "22 a day" if that is what they claim to be the true number. That report came out with limited data from just 21 states. It also had the highest percentage of veterans committing suicide were over the age of 50. Maybe they need to answer why they did not bother to address the group with the highest suicides?
If they use "20 a day" then leave them this link with the same questions.
Then if you want to, ask them exactly how they expect to help veterans if they did not even bother to read the reports they are raising money to raise awareness for? Then share their answer so that everyone following them or supporting them on their Facebook site learns what they are really all about.
That is a step toward getting the BS out of all this.
The next step if you have a veteran in your own family with PTSD. Normalize it for them. PTSD is what is left over from facing death for 1 out of 3 Vietnam veterans and 1 out of 5 OEF and OIF veterans. One more indication as to why the older veterans are the majority of the suicides. More of them with a higher rate of PTSD.
Spend the time to learn all you can, then get your own emotions out of the way when dealing with theirs. It may be hard for you but it is harder for them to have it.
Understand they can heal and life can be a lot better, but that not only requires you to learn the road ahead, you have to learn what got them to where they are now.
You do not need to know the details of what caused PTSD, so don't ask them to tell you. Plus, if you are not a professional, you may not be prepared for the answer or know how to respond. I've worked with them for over 30 years. Many times I wish they had not shared what they did, but I was trained to handle it without getting too upset or letting my own emotions take over. I just try to process it after I get off the phone or close the email.
No you own limits. Don't try to do something if you don't understand what comes next. PTSD and suicide are complex subjects. If you learn the basics, then you have a better way of knowing if you need to take action beyond what you are capable of. Know what to do next before you start anything.
Also, remember, no matter how much you know, you will not be able to save all of them. I couldn't save my husband's nephew no matter how much I knew. I just never figured out how to get him to listen before it was too late. Something that caused me to take these suicides personally.
Remind them that civilians also get hit by PTSD. It hit them when they survived something terrible, and it only took one time to do it. For occupations, these men and women had, it happened a lot more than once, or twice, but over the years they were on the job.
If it is an older veteran, isolation is a big issue for them. Encourage them to get involved with other veterans groups so they not only find common ground, they gain support. Trust me, they are comfortable with other veterans a lot more than they are comfortable in crowds with strangers.
If they change after retirement, get them to see a doctor instead of a divorce lawyer. They changed for a reason. Listen to them but also pay attention to the way they are acting.
Mood swings, overblown reactions to situations, looking for arguments, drinking more than what had been usual for them, dropping things they used to enjoy, nightmares waking them up or being obsessive about security, paranoia and zoning out, are warning signs they need help.
Understand that you have little to do with causing any of this but you have a lot to do with getting them help. While you cannot force them, unless they are suicidal, you can encourage them to get the help they need, but far too many do not think they deserve it.
None of this is new and most of it is not in the news because too many are willing to settle for what they are hearing, instead of learning what can make a difference.
These folks valued life so much, they were willing to lay down their own lives for the sake of others. To lose them because they no longer value their own lives, is something that should be acceptable to no one!
Remember, they lived for love and need to live for love now too.
This video was done in 2012,
long before it was headline news. The video ends with "18 veterans committed suicide" and back then, that is what the number was being reported as.
Veterans face off with law enforcement almost every week across the country.
Too many veterans were kicked out of the military instead of being helped.