By Dr. Robert S. Brown, Behavioral HealthSeptember 22, 2016
FORT LEE, Va. (Sept. 22, 2016) -- The current #22pushupchallenge campaign to increase awareness about veteran suicides, has a lot of people focusing on the numbers.
But suicide is not about statistics. It's about those who are suffering; wondering how much more they can take. It is about people with broken or meaningless relationships and people who seriously wonder if their families would be better off without them. These people are all around us, and we talk to them every day, but are we really listening to them?
In an era where people are always on the go and don't want to be inconvenienced, it's easy to be "too busy" and neglect those who need help.
However, there are those who care; people who are willing to be inconvenienced. Last year, one of the Soldiers in a post traumatic stress disorder therapy group at Kenner Army Health Clinic said he was giving up. This group is filled with people who know firsthand from combat what many of us cannot imagine in the darkest parts of out mind.
This Soldier's marriage had failed. He was failing his online courses. He was very depressed, not sleeping well and arguing about visitation rights with his wife. He also was transitioning to a medical discharge from the Army.
"The kids would be better off with me dead," he said. "The $400,000 would fix them for life."
The group was listening. We all felt the darkness of his gloom.
"Are you having suicidal thoughts?" I asked. He was, and he had a plan.
In fact, he had been rehearsing the act "to get it right." Like most people looking for a way to stop suffering, he was ambivalent about it. He did not want to die. He wanted to stop suffering.
His fellow group members loved this Soldier. In no time, he was in a car with them enroute to the hospital. It took most of the afternoon. They stayed with him. They weren't inconvenienced. They were attached to him exactly how Soldiers in combat are attached to each other. Survival was on their mind; not how heavy the traffic was on Interstate 95 North or how their afternoon could have been better spent. Happily, after only a few days in the hospital, the Soldier looked at life in a different way. Did the healing come from the hospitalization or from the love he experienced from the group?
It does not take a psychiatrist to tell when someone is suffering. It takes concern. It takes time. It takes listening.
People thinking about suicide will talk about it. Will you listen? Will you give a damn? Will you care and will you act on your concern? Good Soldiers set the model for caring people to follow.
If you or a loved one is suffering or experiencing a crisis, or have a friend who is suffering or in crisis, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255), press 1 for the Military Crisis Line or text 838255.
For more information, visit www.militarycrisisline.net.
To make an appointment with a qualified listener who wants to help, call for a Behavioral Health appointment at KAHC. The phone number is (804) 734-9623.
"We try to process the needs of the whole military family, and if we cannot help, we will find someone who will meet those needs,'' said Maj. Jack Strong, chief, multidisciplinary staff, Behavioral Health, KAHC. "Behavioral Health records are confidential and are not part of military medical records."
For active duty service members who want to speak with Kenner's after-hours behavioral health on-call provider, call 734-9000.