Check on your buddies

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By Connecting Vets
Note: If you are struggling or know a veteran or service member who is, remember there is always help available. You can call the Veteran Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, send a text message to 8383255, or chat online to get free, confidential support, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

The heartbreaking news, this week, that three survivors of school shootings -- two teens from Parkland High School and one father from the Sandy Hook tragedy -- have died of apparent suicide is a reminder that surviving trauma can be never-ending, a fact the veteran community understands all too well.

It causes you to look around. Who do you know is struggling? How can you help?

Suicide is complex. There isn’t always one tipping point that results in someone taking their life.

The statistics are startling. The CDC reports that suicides are up 25% since 1999. In 2016 alone, nearly 45,000 lives were lost to suicide, and more than half of the people who died by suicide did not have a known mental health condition.

What does this tell us? Many times, the warning signs are invisible.

And for service members and veterans, we are trained to hold it all together. We are conditioned to put the mission first, which often means we find ourselves last. We focus on physical health, mission, brotherhood and sisterhood - all things that the military has afforded us – but is it at the expense of taking care of our own hearts and minds?

Clearly, for our community, suicide is associated with PTSD. But it doesn’t have to be. Stereotypes of PTSD symptoms include randomly lashing out in public, alcohol and drug abuse, or isolation from friends and family.

This isn’t always what PTSD looks like.

It’s also not what a suicidal person always looks like.

How can you help?  What are the warning signs?

It can all start with a discussion. The Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale is a great place to start. It’s a series of questions you can ask, like:

  • Have you ever wished you were dead, or that you went to sleep and didn’t wake up? 
  • Have you ever thought about killing yourself?
  • Have you ever thought about how you would do it?
  • Have you started working out the details on how you’d kill yourself?  Have you made a plan, or bought materials, or prepared for it?

Download the questionnaire here.

Write #buddycheck on your calendar for the 22nd of each month. Every month, check in with someone you think might need you. Or even someone who acts like they don't.

Sometimes common warning signs aren’t so common in the military community. Our “mind over matter,” mentality means one of your buddies could look like he has it all together, but in truth, he’s drowning.

We have dozens of resources, links and experts who specialize in veteran suicides. Visit our resources at  Find Help | Mental Health. Or, listen to an in-depth conversation about "How to Stop Suicide" click "Play" on the link below.

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