Holidays can be a busy time for everyone. It is also a time for us to take note of the family and friends in our lives who mean so much to us. Aside from traditional holiday festivities, the holiday season can also bring or heighten feelings of loss and grief. While these feelings can impact anyone across the nation, I’d ask that we pay close attention to our military, veterans, and their families, many of whom are dealing with the impact of separations, medical issues, and loss.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention gives us some indicators to consider; are there any observable signs of serious depression (unrelenting low mood, hopelessness, desperation, anxiety, withdrawal, and sleep problems); is there increased alcohol and/or other drug use; has there been recent impulsiveness and taking unnecessary risks, and has there been unexpected rage or anger. This list is not all inclusive, but the presence of one or more of these in one individual may indicate more serious issues.
At Ft. Bliss, TX earlier this year, President Obama stated "Seeking help is a sign of strength". He then issued an Executive Order for Improving Access to Mental Health Services for Veterans, Service Members, and Military Families. This Order serves as a foundation for bringing the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs together to facilitate access to education, services and research.
To strengthen internal commitment to end suicides amongst our military, the Department of Defense formed the Defense Suicide Prevention Office to lift up suicide awareness and develop prevention strategies. This Public Service Announcement, produced by the Defense Media Activity, prompts service members, veterans, and their families to know the signs of stress that can lead to suicide and to contact the Military Crisis Line through Militarycrisisline.net or by calling 1-800-273-8255, press 1. The Crisis Line is staffed by VA professionals who can help 24/7.
Rosye Cloud is the Director of Policy for Veterans, Wounded Warriors and Military Families