BLUF: If you are having a hard time, a crisis, or thinking about suicide, then please stop what you’re doing and get help. It doesn’t require thinking about suicide to get help.
Here’s contact information:
VA Veteran Crisis Hotline: Call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.
If in Harris County, the Harris Center can be called at: 713-970-7000, press 1. Or you can find them online at: https://www.theharriscenter.org/
If you need immediate help: Call 9-1-1.
Yesterday, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and saw something from one of the guys I did a tour with in Iraq. He mentioned that one of the other guys we fought alongside with had died.
His words had a flavor to them that got me thinking that he had committed suicide.
Life interjected. I have kids. Later in the day I saw another of my comrades say something about the same guy.
“Dang it,” I thought. “No. Had to be a firefight over there.”
I searched the DoD for a release, which I haven’t done in years. I found nothing.
“Maybe they’re just read-in on this, faster than the Pentagon could push out a proper release,” I thought. “I’ll know the details for sure soon.”
I went to the park with my son. I usually brainstorm or research if I’m not putting in my own mileage on the circuit.
Then a third guy from the same platoon chimed in. This time, I saw his post almost live and I caught him on a messenger app.
Boom. Confirmation it was suicide.
I wanted to do something else last night. It was the 21st anniversary of my high school alma mater winning its fourth consecutive state football championship. That’s right: Go Sealy!
I wanted to take my kids to their Cub Scout Pack meeting. They were supposed to get their Pinewood Derby cars along all the other scouts. I’ll link up with the appropriate volunteer leader to get their cars, so don’t worry about that.
My evening changed. Neither of those things happened.
Fast forward to this morning. I’d rather invest my time writing about something else than veteran suicide, but since it’s also been a year since another guy in the same platoon did the same damn thing, it’s worth clearing my own thoughts.
There’s a lot of thoughts in my head about why, or what could have been done.
They say that the more you know about any particular subject, the more that you realize you don’t know everything. I’m a subject matter expert in a few subjects, and as a result I know that I’m not the right person to talk to about these matters: That’s the job of a trained psychologist, or other mental health professional.
While I’m always open to the soldiers I served with under the DINFOS, Fort Huachuca Garrison, Iron Gunners, Iron Eagles and Long Knife flags, at some point I’m going to have to get you to someone who understands what the heck is going on and knows how to actually help you.
Here’s their contact information:
VA Veteran Crisis Hotline: Call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.
Heck, if you can’t remember all or any of that: Call 9-1-1 and tell them what you’re thinking. They will be get someone to you to help.
These options are available not just veterans, but for all service members (Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard), National Guard and Reservists, AND their family members and friends.
Let’s say you contact one of those crisis hotlines mentioned above. According to the VA:
“When you call, chat, or text the Veterans Crisis Line, one of our trained responders will help you through any personal crisis, even if it does not involve thoughts of suicide. You decide how much you want to share — we’re here to listen and to help.
If you are in danger — or the Veteran or Service member you’re concerned about is in danger — the responder will work to make sure everyone is safe. The responder will help you get through the crisis and then help you connect with the services you need, either from your local VA medical center or elsewhere in your community. If you decide to share your contact information, the Suicide Prevention Coordinator at the nearest VA medical center will contact you by the next business day.
If you — or the Veteran or Service member you are concerned about — are in crisis but not at imminent risk for injury or suicide, then the responder will listen, offer support, and help you make a plan to stay safe.”
I did a small bit of research for this opinion piece.
On top of getting the correct contact information for the VA crisis hotline, I also learned that the often cited “22 veteran suicides per day” number is wildly inaccurate.
Firstly, that number is all encompassing and from a 2012 VA study. It’s not specific to the OIF/OEF generation of warfighters. In fact, that generation’s numbers are miniscule. It seems like the problem is more with the much older veterans who are retirement-age.
Context is like karma. It’s a (pain).
For more insight, go check out Task and Purpose’s article on this, here. But the VA study didn’t even pull data from half the states, it only pulled death certificates from 21 states. Additionally, the Washington Post adds that the study itself states the 22 number should not be used as the researchers knew they didn’t have a fully factual set of data, and that the death certificates included those of non-veterans.
TL;DR: The number of veteran suicides is way less than 22 per day. Take out the Baby Boomers and that number goes down more.
Go to war. You’re safer there.
The Post breaks it down like this: “Between 2001 and 2009, there were 1,650 deployed veterans and 7,703 non-deployed veteran deaths. Of those, 351 were suicides among deployed veterans and 1,517 were suicides among non-deployed veterans. That means over nine years, there was not quite one veteran suicide a day.”
Yup. Everyone gets all hyped up over the number 22. But the number is less than one per day for combat vets.
A decade after ETS’ing following being stop-lossed to end my contract, I learned that there’s different types of veterans from the OIF/OEF “generation.”
Let’s oversimplify: Those who deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, and those who didn’t.
Overall, I noticed the combat vets know a different “playbook.” In fact, the stuff we trained on before my first tour was literally thrown out the window when we got into the Middle East.
It went something like this: “Y’all guys know everything you trained on before coming here? Don’t do that!”
I’ll put it into a context that most people should be able to understand. Think back to the first Iron Man movie as Tony Stark’s HUMVEE comes under attack. The driver did pretty much everything wrong. On top of that, who let the Air Force drive ground vehicles? But hey, the Air Force is sexy in Hollywood and the story requires Tony Stark to become a hostage so he can emerge as Iron Man.
I’ll hit this again, from another source. Task and Purpose pulled information from a more recent report: “351 were suicides among deployed veterans and 1,517 were suicides among non-deployed veterans.”
The rhyme and reason as to why the slick sleeves having a dramatically higher number is beyond me. Again, I’m not a trained mental health professional.
Get help, not hurt.
Guys and Gals, if you’re thinking about suicide, then I need you to pick up the phone. If your phone battery is dead, then I need you to go outside and wave down the first cop or first responder you see. Heck, walk to the fire station. They will help.
If you’re not a veteran: The same applies. We want you here. Call any of those numbers above. They will get you to the right person.
The Harris Center can be called at: 713-970-7000, press 1. Or you can find them online at: https://www.theharriscenter.org/
We need you here. We don’t need to add to those statistics.