The holiday season often comes with festivities, celebrations and gatherings centered around indulging in seasonal foods, beverages, and treats. This is a time when Soldiers can reconnect with Family and friends, take leave, and have freedom from a regimented schedule.
“The holidays are when you get together with friends and Family the most … and there can be a propensity to overindulge in alcoholic beverages,” said Michael Muldoon, New Hampshire Army National Guard’s Risk Reduction Coordinator.
Although celebrations can be a tempting time to test your limits, it’s important to keep moderation in mind.
For some Soldiers, the holiday season may mean not being able to visit with loved ones out of state, feelings of isolation, and additional financial struggles.
“This is a time of year when Soldiers and Families can start feeling a little depressed because of the holidays that are coming up," said Dale Gallows, New Hampshire Army National Guard Suicide Prevention Coordinator.
Soldiers with financial or mental health struggles may think using alcohol or other substances is doing them good, but all it is doing is adding gasoline to a pretty serious fire, Muldoon said.
According to the CDC, being under the influence of alcohol or another substance increases the risk of death by suicide. This may be because alcohol and some substances result in a loss of inhibition and can increase impulsive behavior, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
Muldoon and Gallows emphasize that resources, intervention, and prevention strategies could prove useful during this time. They recommend planning ahead before getting into a potentially dangerous situation that may also lead to serious legal repercussions, such as driving under the influence. Planning can look like scheduling a ridesharing service; setting a drink limit for yourself; self-identifying triggers that have appeared around the holidays before and avoiding them; and reflecting on your goals to stay motivated.
It’s important to get resources before the holiday season rather than after, they said. They recommend service providers continue to make efforts to reduce stigma for seeking help, and utilize resources such as the new “Engage” training modules, which help Soldiers have challenging conversations by teaching them how to be aware, take responsibility for, and have a plan when a fellow Soldier may need help. Engage Training can be conducted at your nearest R2 Performance center, www.armyresilience.army. mil/ard/R2/R2-Performance-center.html.
Stigma around seeking help can be one of the reasons Soldiers don’t reach out. Muldoon said Soldiers may fear facing stigma or a negative impact to their careers if they seek help.
“We will do anything in our power possible to help them (regardless of needed services),” Muldoon said.
If you’re in crisis please contact the Military and Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255. For additional support contact Military OneSource at 1-800-342-9647. You can find additional resources by contacting the New Hampshire National Guard ASAP at https://nh.ng.mil/Soldier-Services/Substance-Abuse-Program/or your nearest ASAP location https://www.armyresilience.army.mil/ASAP/pages/location.html.