March 20, 2016
Caring about veterans and wanting to make a difference is not good enough. We have to take the time to give it all careful thought and research or we'll just keep repeating what has already been done and failed to achieve the stated purpose.
There is a veteran who subjected himself to a hardship that left me speechless. The reason to do something must have been based on caring about veterans but while the purpose may have been pure, the awareness was questionable.
Ryan Weldon walking 5,000 miles to "raise awareness" and set up a GoFundMe. Willing to walk that many miles to "do something" yet didn't read the report or he wouldn't still be using "22 a day" when talking about suicides.
“The journey is to get the word out there and let people know how serious it is,” Weldon said. “Twenty-two veterans a day take their own life due to post-traumatic stress and as a Marine, I refuse to sit by and do nothing.”In another report after he finished the walk there was this from NBC.
Ryan Weldon was greeted by throngs of supporters when he reached San Francisco coastline.
Ryan Weldon, a 34-year-old from North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, started his treck in February 2015 to raise awareness for military and law enforcement veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. His journey started on the East Coast, in Delaware and spanned 5,000 miles.According to that article he only raised $8,000 for a 5,000 mile walk, so obviously it wasn't about financial gain for himself. His service as a Marine wasn't about financial gain either. No one puts their lives on the line in the military for a big paycheck. When you actually think about what they make risking their lives and enduring endless hardships, they are making under minimum wage and well below the folks who protested to make $15 an hour to work in fast food services.
He documented the walk on Facebook. This veteran knows how to use technology and apparently he does care or he wouldn't have subjected his body to what he just went through. We are just left wondering what the point was.
Doing "something" is not the same as doing something that can change what is happening.
There is a lot of that going on all over the country. Folks wanting to do something but never taking the time to discover what was already done anymore than they take the time to study the subject they want to raise awareness on.
PTSD is not the only cause for suicides tied to military life but it is tied to the majority of them. As Weldon points out, there are law enforcement veterans committing suicide as well as current ones and firefighters and emergency medical technicians.
The thing is, no one is going to change something they do not understand. All the good intentions on this "awareness" raising has completely missed the opportunity to change what needs to be changed.
Veterans already know they are killing themselves, so quoting a 59 page report down to a slogan isn't helpful at all.
There was a followup to that study involving 21 states and this VA Suicide Report was from 23 states, released in 2014.
As you can see, that was after all these veterans were trained in "prevention" which clearly didn't work especially when you factor in the redeployment risk of PTSD raised by 50% which the Army figured out back in 2006.
"When we look at combat, we look at some very horrific events," said Col. Ed Crandell, head of the Army's Mental Health Advisory Team, which polled 1,461 soldiers in Iraq in late 2005. "They come back, they know they're going to deploy again," and as a result they don't ever return to normal levels of stress, Crandell said.
"The most likely explanation . . . is that a number of soldiers returned" to Iraq "with acute stress/combat stress symptoms" that were unresolved from previous tours, it said.
The report also found a doubling of suicides among soldiers serving in the Iraq war from 2004 to 2005, the latest period for which data are available. Twenty-two soldiers took their own lives in Iraq and Kuwait in 2005, compared with 11 in 2004 and 25 in 2003, Army officials said.Despite what they knew, suicides went up and so did the number of redeployments. But too many only want to focus on the veteran suicides without ever thinking about the numbers going up in those committing suicide while still in the military.
We don't want to talk about the training these men and women had that were supposed to prevent them from happening or the fact that we've spent billions on them. What do members of Congress do about any of this? They don't even mention the prevention programs when they hold hearings, so the over 900 prevention programs continue and do do the suicides.
Military Suicides Rise, Despite 900 ProgramsNothing will change as long as we walk away from the facts. Nothing will give the veterans hope until we actually start telling them they are not stuck suffering the way they are today and can heal their lives even though they cannot change their past. They need hope but they won't believe any of us if we allow something that just isn't true to be repeated over and over again.
But what is not addressed in this testimony and what my post did address is that the 900 programs are not targeting the appropriate register of experience to heal the deep anguish that service members and veterans experience and often leads them to take their own lives. Stigma reduction, yes; availability of screening and mental health care, yes; peer counselors, yes. But these are not enough.
If you really want to make a difference here's what all of us need to do.
1. Stop repeating the number 22.
That study was from limited data from just 21 states. The VA and the CDC are working on a more detailed report but first we need to understand the breakdown on the report already used and how what is being talked about is not the whole story.
While the figure is often cited in connection with recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (it also was used by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the group that pushed for the Clay Hunt act), the study was more telling of suicides among older veterans. The average age of male veteran suicides was 59.6 years old — older than non-veteran male suicides. (The Gallup pollshows the percentage of veterans climbs dramatically as the population gets older, making up a majority of those older than 65.) “It is therefore possible that epidemiologic characteristic of suicide in the general population (i.e. higher rates of suicide among older adult males) may contribute to a comparatively high prevalence of Veterans among those who die from suicide,” the VA report noted.
2. Stop saying "It's just a number" when that fact is pointed out to you.
It is not just a number to be taken lightly. They were members of the military willing to die for someone else yet found it impossible to survive back home.
3. Find out what has already been done by others and join them.
Wanting to do something is great but means you are also willing to repeat the same mistakes by thinking no one else thought of it and has already done it.
4. If you are a family member dealing with the loss, join or start a support group.
You may not be qualified to take on a troubled veteran but more than qualified to help another family with what they are going through. You know the pain they feel all too well and they need support, advice and encouragement to heal. They also need reassurance that it was not their fault. They did the best they could with what they knew at the time. It would also be a good idea to invite someone looking for support while their veteran is still alive but won't seek help.
5. Research the subject you want to raise awareness on as if your life depended on it.
Make sure you understand what is already available in your area so you know what is lacking and fill in the gaps. Don't just read something online about the limited attempts and then repeat them.
6. Don't think your attempt is the only thing that is needed.
Service Dogs are helpful but not the only answer. Some veterans do not like dogs, others are allergic to them, do not have the time or place to properly take care of them. There have been veterans committing suicide even with a wonderful service dog.7. Find out what is going on in your own state.
Sports and outings are great, get veterans out with others and put them into an different environment for a day, but after it is over, they are back with their thoughts, struggles and problems.
Peer Support is also limited. If the one offering the support has not been trained or does not know anything more than the veteran needing support, it can do more harm than good for both of them. Let's face it. It is stressful.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has an interactive map with every state, the number of veterans, how many males and female veterans as well as how many from each generation. There are 400,000 veterans charities out there already that may be doing some good but evidently not good enough. Plus top that off with the fact there are less than 22 million veterans in this country and you get the point.
8. Stop blaming the VA for everything since Congress has had jurisdiction over it since 1946 and no problem is a new one.
Plus there is the simple fact that most veterans do not go to the VA no matter if they know they need it or not.
9. Understand that it does not matter if it is a Republican or Democrat in the White House since every President has left the following one a backlog of claims in the 100's of thousands.
There was a backlog of claims in the 90's as well as years of waiting for approvals. My family was in that mess.
10. PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT IS SUPPOSED TO BE IMPORTANT TO YOU AND INVEST THE TIME OR NOTHING WILL EVER CHANGE!