When news comes of one of our soldiers dying, we, in the military community in particular, are all devastated. When the death is a suicide, the pain of loss is often felt even more deeply. But sometimes we hear news that just overwhelms us with sadness.
I remember the day when I learned that one of the mothers of a soldier who had been killed while deployed in Iraq tragically decided to end her own life. The horrible news spread through our community of “Moms” and was simply devastating to each one of us.
It is so easy for most of this country to forget that we are still at war; that lives are still being lost almost daily, and that our military members suffer many long-term effects even if they do return home “in one piece.” It seems even easier to forget that there are families out there who are just as deeply scarred by the horrors of this war, and that the effects can haunt them for years on end.
Suicide is something that needs to be addressed among our military families. The statistics of suicide within the military community are staggering. Help is very slow in coming. It is left up to our soldiers and their families to take preventative steps. Our military members too often fear the very real negative repercussions that often come when they do ask for help. It is far too easy for this invisible kind of war injury to go unnoticed until it is too late.
I asked my own soldier one day what suggestions he would make to help lessen the suicide rate among our soldiers, especially those recently returning from deployments. He suggested that each unit be put in isolation with only the members of their unit for a period several weeks. This would allow these soldiers to “decompress”, to digest what they had gone through, to be able to discuss it openly with those who had been there by their side, the only ones who could truly understand. Just as they spent a great deal of time as a team learning how to go to war, they also need time to learn, as a team, how to survive having gone to war. Instead, they return to their base and are thrown directly back into either their military life or into the civilian world, with no time given to properly process the horrors of what they had just experienced. Therefore, we need to be constantly vigilant, watch for warning signs, and be open and willing to lend support to each other. All of our soldiers are vulnerable. Their families are vulnerable, too. We must never let our guard down. If you are thinking of taking your own life, please, PLEASE, reach out for help!