September 1 marked the start of Suicide Prevention Month. Throughout the month, individuals and organizations have been raising awareness about different suicide prevention programs. Programs such as the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention program, 22Kill, and Operation Never Forgotten all give support to those who are battling suicidal thoughts or actions and give them an outlet to share their frustrations. The Purple Heart Foundation also has a suicide prevention program to help those who may be contemplating suicide.
The topic of suicide can be a difficult topic to bring up, especially if you or someone you love is showing signs of possibly attempting to end their life. The most important thing to remember when having this conversation, according to Dr. Andrew Tomacari, is to show genuine support for the person during this tough period in their lives. Having a heartfelt conversation can help the person open up and start a conversation about how they’re feeling.
In 2014, the Department of Veterans Affairs reported an average of 20 veterans die from suicide each day, and six of the 20 used VA services. There is continued evidence, according to a July 2016 report that middle-aged and older veterans have a high burden of suicide. For families of veterans who have committed suicide, sharing their story can help other veterans who are thinking of ending their life. When Army veteran Daniel Somers committed suicide on June 10, 2013, he asked his wife to share the note he wrote to his family as she saw fit in order to raise awareness.
Holden Corzine, an Army Veteran of the War in Afghanistan ended his life on April 6, 2016. The 29-year-old suffered from PTSD after he came back from Afghanistan and sought out treatment. Even with the help he received, Holden struggled. Holden’s parents share his story in an effort to raise awareness, “My wife and I both thought if it helped one person, it was worth it. All we wanted people to do is get help, hang onto their loved ones, and let them know things would be OK,” Holden’s father Jhan said. “Sometimes that’s not enough.”
One of the reasons for the rate of suicide in the military is the stigma that military personnel need to be strong and not ask for help.“In the past, it was an unwritten rule (in the military) that it was frowned upon if you sought help with (mental illness),” said Chip Tansill, a retired Army colonel and combat veteran and director of the Ohio Department of Veteran Services.
People like the Corzine family and others around the country are trying to raise awareness to help bring down the statistics of veteran suicide. Some of the ways in which people are helping to raise awareness include:
Navy veteran and father Marc Herzog of Westfield, NJ marched 13 miles with non-profit organization Irreverent Warriors to raise awareness.
The #22PushUpChallenge and #22KILL hashtag has taken the nation by storm with everyone from regular citizens to celebrities to Olympians completing 22 pushups for 22 days straight in honor of the estimated amount of veterans committing suicide each day.
During the month on Twitter, the hashtag #BeThere has been used to show that even just being there for a person over the phone or face-to-face can make a difference to someone in crisis and help them get the help they need.
The main theme for this year’s awareness programs and event is being there for someone. Whether it be through a phone call, text message, or sharing a meal with someone, letting them know that they are not alone in their fight may give them the reassurance they need to seek out help.
The fight to end veteran suicide has come to Capitol Hill as well. Sen. Joni Ernst, (R-Iowa), who is a former Lieutenant Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard, introduced legislation on the topic. Ernst introduced to the Senate the Prioritizing Veterans’ Access to Mental Health Care Act. The proposal included an option for veterans seeking help to look outside of the Veterans Affairs.
She also introduced the Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act to help reduce the number of female veteran suicides. According to the most recent Veterans Affairs study, female veterans are six times more likely to commit suicide than non-female veterans. The bipartisan legislation, also championed by Democratic senator Barbara Boxer, was signed into law by President Obama in July.
Being available to listen and speak with someone who may be considering taking their life is important. By having heartfelt talks about what they need, the person struggling will hopefully be able to see that they don’t have to fight alone and there are resources available to get them the help they need. One major resource is the Suicide Prevention Hotline. If you or someone you know may be thinking of committing suicide, call 1-800-273-5255 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
The Purple Heart Foundation is committed to assisting veterans in all aspects of their lives, including helping those who are struggling with thoughts of suicide through our suicide prevention program. Show your support for these brave men and women in their fight against suicide by making a one-time or monthly pledge to ensure veterans continue to get the support and benefits they deserve by clicking here.