GUEST OPINION: Raising awareness about military suicide

Idaho Politics Weekly, Sunday Sept. 24, 2017 by U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo

Marilyn Neal, department president for the Idaho Department of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Auxiliary, gave me a blue teardrop pin to wear on my lapel to bring awareness to veterans and military suicide. I continue to wear the pin with pride and take every opportunity to explain its significance.

The VFW Auxiliary describes the blue teardrop as a “symbol that we can use to open a conversation to give this issue the attention so desperately needed.” The auxiliary provides atemplate of the blue teardrop that can be printed and worn. The organization encourages those who wear it to share the pin’s purpose of raising awareness about veterans and military suicide with others.

Idahoans have shared stories with me about the tragic loss of friends and loved ones to suicide. The holes left in Idaho families and communities are heartbreaking.

Suicide prevention resources are being highlighted throughout September to try to help combat veterans suicide as part of a larger campaign against suicide: September is Suicide Prevention Month. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reminds us that, “Many people don’t know what they can to do to support a Veteran in their life who’s going through a difficult time.” The agency is leading the “#BeThere” campaign that emphasizes, “small actions—like calling up an old friend, checking in on a neighbor, or inviting a colleague to go for a walk—are thoughtful ways to show someone you care. Your actions can help someone going through a tough time feel less alone.”

The VA provides the following “Signs of Trouble,” but also cautions that, “A veteran may not show any signs of wanting to self-harm before doing so”:

  • Looks sad or depressed most of the time;

  • Shows symptoms of clinical depression that don’t go away or get worse: deep sadness,

    loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating;

  • Feels anxious or agitated;

  • Unable to sleep, or sleeps all the time;

  • Neglects personal welfare and physical appearance;

  • Withdraws from friends, family and society;

  • Loses interest in hobbies, work, school or other things they used to care about;

  • Has frequent and dramatic mood changes;

  • Expresses feelings of extreme guilt or shame;

  • Has feelings of failure;

  • Feels that life is not worth living;

  • Feels no sense of purpose in life;

  • Feels trapped, like there is no way out of a situation;

  • Feels in despair, and says that there’s no solution to their problems.

    Resources and help, including local assistance, can be accessed at www.veteranscrisisline.net/BeThere.aspx. The VA’s Veterans Crisis Line can also be accessed by calling 1-800- 273-8255and Press 1; chat online at http://veteranscrisisline.net/Chat&source=gmail&ust=1506354873655000&usg=AFQjCNEG2HYNugWsEIrffsG ugVmIZbsDYA">VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat or text to 838255. The VA urges those in need to call, even if a veteran is not registered with the VA or enrolled in VA health care. The site also contains information about the signs to look for and ways to support those struggling. The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare also provides many resources, including resources to assist Idahoans who have lost a loved one to suicide, at http://healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/Families/SuicidePrevention/Resources/tabid/1920/Default.aspx.

    VA data shows that 20 veterans a day commit suicide, the risk of suicide is 22 percent higher among veterans compared with civilian adults and the highest rates are in Western states. Thank you to all those working to end veterans suicide. My prayers are with those who have lost loved ones and who are struggling that they may know how deeply they are valued and that needed help reaches them. Let’s do all that we can to #BeThere for those who put their lives on the line for our nation and put an end to veterans suicide.

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