July 6, 2016
This morning my email box was full of news on veterans committing suicide and folks "raising awareness" about what they were doing for them. Some use "22 a day" others use the latest number from the VA of "20 a day" and some even use "25 a day" as if any of those numbers will change anything.
The simple fact is, none of what has been done since 1999 has been enough to actually help change the outcome for far too many. With a reduction of almost 7 million veterans leaving us since then, the numbers from the VA on suicides are still "20 a day" even after a decade of stunts to "prevent" them from taking their own lives.
Senator Roger Wicker, center left, and Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber, center right, do pushups as part of the "22 Pushup Challenge," a social media campaign to raise awareness for veteran suicide prevention, Thursday at the Capitol. (Photo: Elijah Baylis/The Clarion-Ledger)This happened at the Mississippi State Capitol. In the article there was this,
"There’s no reason for any veteran to feel that he or she needs to take their own life," said Senator Roger Wicker just before he, Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber, Flowood Police Chief Richie McCluskey, and others hit the deck for 22 pushups in the Mississippi state capitol rotunda on Thursday.I have no doubt they are filled with good intentions but lack good information so they share pain instead of hope.
The problem is, there are plenty of reasons veterans are still taking their own lives after risking them for the sake of others. All the raising awareness about them committing suicide has managed to do is spread the hopelessness. If others did not find the help they needed, then what are the chances a veteran in crisis will be able to change his/her own tomorrow?
The other thing is that older veterans, waiting longer for help and hope, forgotten by all these "new efforts" has left them in the majority of veterans committing suicide. They look at all the attention the younger veterans are getting, doing little good, and that removes hope for them. It devalues all the decades of them suffering in silence for what they fought so hard to change.
I could go on and on, but you have read enough of the bad reports here for a very long time. This month Wounded Times has been up for 9 years. That is a lot of covering the sad news but for now, I think it is vital to talk about the good news. If anything will ever change, we need to start raising awareness on what works. That begins with telling them what they have not heard enough. They are not condemned to suffer as much as they are today and their lives are healable.
Yesterday a veteran called to thank me for what I helped him with. Usually when I hear that, it is followed by heartache and I prepare to do battle with the demon of death to give them back the hope they lost. This time, the thank you was followed by a series of blessings shared by him.
He proceeded to tell me that his claim had been upgraded and he would not have to worry about how to feed himself and his service dog. He talked about how so many people surrounded him in his darkest times, listening to him pour his heart out. They made sure he had food to eat and rides to get to around. They made sure he knew he mattered to them when he could not find a reason to matter to himself.
He also talked about how God was very busy in his life when He sent all of them to get him through all the hardships he had to face.
The most wondrous thing of all about this veteran is his voice was filled with hope when he talked about helping other veterans heal like he did.
So, for what it is worth, after over 3 decades of doing this work, this is what I feel needs to be shared right now to actually make a difference.
We have to start with what PTSD really is.
Post means "after' because things go from one way in your life to chaos and your life changed in a second. Trauma is something you survived that very well could have taken your life or the life of someone else. In other words, it happened to you. That trauma caused your entire body to go into stress mode. That caused the way you think and feel to be in disorder. In other words, it was in order before it, got shaken up and you can put things back in order again. Maybe not in the same exact way, but at least an order you can live with.
One more thing to mention on this is that "trauma" is actually Greek for "wound" and with all wounds, left untreated they get worse but with help, all wounds do in fact heal. YOU CAN HEAL!
If you think that PTSD is something to be ashamed of, think better about yourself since you survived it. You are not a "victim" of the event but you are a survivor. It was not able to kill you. So why are you letting it destroy you now?
Like the veteran needed to be reminded of a long time ago, when you were in combat and outnumbered, you called in all the help you could get. If ground support was not enough, then you called in for air support. Lives were on the line so you did what you had to do to keep them alive. How is this different?
Every veteran I have helped over the years said the first thing they wanted to do was help other veterans live better lives. Staying here and healing actually means you will save lives now by getting whatever you need to defeat this.
If you do not find what you need, then keep calling in as much help as you can find the same way you did in combat.
Brandon Ketchum tried to stay alive and tried to help raise awareness but when he was in his darkest hour, he was turned away from the VA after requesting emergency care.
Last October, former Marine sergeant and Army National Guard veteran Brandon Ketchum led a team in an awareness walk to honor military friends who had died by suicide.But this year, Ketchum won’t be present at the Out of the Darkness event in Rock Island, Illinois. Instead, he will be among those remembered, having died July 8 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound just hours after expressing his frustration with Veterans Affairs medical care on a closed Facebook page.Ketchum wrote that he had sought emergency inpatient care for his substance abuse issues but was turned away.Right now no one knows for sure why it happened anymore than they know why he did not keep trying to find help in crisis with all the other groups out there or even something as simple as calling 911 to get into a mental health hospital until he could get a bed at the VA.
Right now if you are like me, you are wondering what good the "Out of darkness" awareness did when he did not think about turning to them for help. Ketchum turned to Facebook to post his exit interview.
I do not have anything to do with that group but I do have something to do with Coming Out of The Dark. This is a video I made 10 years ago.
You are not alone so why be afraid? You may feel like reaching out for help is like hitting a stone wall, but look on your side and find folks standing right there waiting to help you.
They may not be able to give you what you want, but if you let them, they can give you what you need. If you are hungry, let them feed you. If you are without clothes, let them cover you. If you are lonely, let them visit you.
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Matthew 25
When you were able to help someone, how did you feel? Did you feel good or did you feel as if they were less since they needed help? Safe bet you were glad to help them and felt blessed being able to. How is it different being on the receiving end and letting them get that same rush by helping you so you can help someone else along the line?
Do not let the life you lived go without putting up a fight the same way you did in combat. They talk about the lives lost but it is time to talk about the lives not just spared, but shared. You cared so much you were willing to die for the sake of someone else. How about you care enough to live for the same reason?