During military service, it’s easy to find social support and develop unit cohesion, along with a sense of belonging, purpose, and connection. When a Veteran is back home, it may not be so easy to find peers who understand their background, military experiences, and how to reintegrate into the civilian community.
I learned about this sobering number when Wilkes VFW and the local chapter of Mission 22 organized a walk (2.2 miles) at Smoot Park to honor the memories of those lost and in support of #BuddyCheck. My son, an Afghanistan Veteran, joined me to take the walk and new friends were made. I became part of the mission, compelled to help spread the word.
You too can help the mission . . . ‘when you meet a veteran, don’t just thank him or her for their service, but ask how they are doing.’ At Wilkes County Public Library, you may discover a toy soldier on the book shelves, in the restroom, or on a table. Take this with you, pass it on, or keep it as a reminder to remember the men and women serving our country in your prayers.
Remember these key steps to help . . .
Ask and listen: Be an active part of your loved ones’ support systems and check in with them often. If a they show any warning signs for suicide, be direct. Tell them it’s OK to talk about suicidal feelings. Practice active listening techniques and let them talk without judgment.
Get them help and take care of yourself: Don’t be afraid to get your loved one the help they might need. The Lifeline and Veterans Crisis Line are always here to talk or chat, both for crisis intervention and to support friends and loved ones.
Be there: Everyone deals with pain differently. A simple act of kindness to the veteran or service member in your life can help that person feel less alone.
This tragic epidemic touches over 700,000 people (veterans and civilians) each year, nationwide. Help is just a phone call away: Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 any time of day. The Lifeline provides free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones.