Veteran Suicide - What makes me different and keeps me going?

So, just yesterday, I received word that a veteran I knew, who I thought had it all together, attempted to commit suicide (for the second time). It boggled my mind! I was confused, frustrated, concerned, and wondering what I could do to help prevent other Veterans from having to experience this common occurrence. I have seen, done, and experienced just as much, if not more, bad and traumatic shit downrange as this Veteran I knew, so I did some soul searching and asked some other fellow veterans what kept them going to fight those demons and get through those lonely/dark times. Here are some different perspectives about suicide:

  • It all about Perspective: Is life really that bad? Do others have it worse than I do?

  • It’s about Purpose: You have a purpose here!

  • Responsibility to others: You have a responsibility to others!

  • Anger: Why would you want to give up now after all you have been through? You have so much more to live for!

  • How would it affect Others? Who and how would this affect others in your life?

  • There are too many Coping Mechanisms available that can help – Exercise – Meditation – Support Groups – Outdoor Activities

  • Embrace the Good Times to compensate for the Bad! Stock pile when you can to offset when the bad time hit.

  • Positive Thinking and Positive People: Get rid of all the Negative thoughts and Negative people in your life! Surround yourself with Positive everything no matter what!

  • Check up on your veteran buddies! Even if you are the one in trouble!

  • Not Addressing the Problem / Procrastinating / Avoiding or Run from or facing the problem; It will continue to follow or haunt you. Address it now, no matter how difficult.

  • Religious Reasons / Going to Hell: If you commit suicide, you will got hell. You do not deserve that.

  • Must Deal with it in your Next Life / Reincarnation: Even if suicide was the answer you problems will follow you in the next life, so it is not worth it!

Overview


U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs - Facts About Veteran Suicide: June 2018

Suicide is a serious public health issue that affects people from all walks of life, regardless of whether they have served in the military. Suicide is preventable! Veteran suicide is an urgent issue that society must address. The VA has embraced an inclusive public health approach that looks beyond the individual to involve peers, family members, and the community.

Suicide is a complex issue and is persuaded by many intersecting factors to increase or decrease suicide risk. The VA Suicide Prevention Program addresses the risk factors associated with suicidal behavior — like a previous suicide attempt, stressful life events, or lethal means — while promoting the protective factors — like positive coping skills, feeling connected with others, and access to mental health care.


Veteran Suicide Statistics 2015


Veterans accounted for fourteen percent of all deaths by suicide among U.S. adults and constituted eight percent of the U.S. adult population.


  • Suicide resulting from firearms remains high among Veterans. Sixty-seven percent of suicide deaths involved firearms.

  • After adjusting for the age differences, suicide in 2015 was 2.1 times higher among veterans than non-Veteran adults.

  • After adjusting for the age differences, suicide in 2015 was 1.3 times higher among male veterans than non-Veteran adult men.

  • After adjusting for the age differences, suicide in 2015 was 2.0 times higher among female veterans than non-Veteran adult women.

  • Suicide rates were highest among younger Veterans and lowest among older Veterans.

  • An average of twenty-one military members died by suicide each day. Six of these were Veterans who had recently used VA services.

  • Suicide rates increased for Veteran than non-Veteran populations. However, rates increased for Veterans who did not receive care from the VA.

How to deal with suicide when you feel alone!

  • Just get through today rather than focusing on the future.

  • Talk with someone you trust about how you are feeling.

  • Contact a health professional.

  • Try to take your kind of what you are thinking by doing activities you enjoy.

  • If you are in danger of taking your life, call emergency services.

Emotional support


No matter how you feel, some people will listen and want to help.

Ensure family or friends know what you are going through. They may be able to offer help and support to keep you safe. Tell them how you feel. They may help you see your situation differently or think of other options.


If you cannot talk to family or friends, you may get support in other ways, like support lines, counselors, teachers, or spiritual leaders. Suicidal thoughts can be complicated to understand. Sometimes they can be brief, but other times they can be stronger urges that promise relief from seemingly unbearable pain.


Even if you think you will not ever act on them, all suicidal thoughts need to be serious. The sooner you can address them, the better. Here are some helpful tips to fight back against suicidal thoughts.


1. REMOVE YOURSELF FROM DANGER


Thoughts of suicide can hit hardest when you are in a potentially dangerous situation (waiting for a train, driving a vehicle, standing on a balcony, near weapons, or other potentially harmful objects). Stay away from anything you could use to harm yourself.

  • Physically remove yourself from the situation to minimize the potential of acting on suicidal thoughts. If you take medications, you can ask a friend to keep them for you until you get your life back in control.

  • Find a place where you feel safe. Like your bedroom, Mental health or spiritual center, Crisis center, Friend's house, Library, etc.

2. DON'T MAKE A DECISION TODAY


You do not need to act on your thoughts right away. The idea of suicide is not going to just go away. You can make this decision another time but now is not convenient.

Focus on today and not the rest of your life. Even though these thoughts have occurred before, coping may seem tougher today. There will be better days ahead that you will be able to manage.


3. LOOK AT YOUR CRISIS PLAN


A crisis plan is also called a safety plan. This plan should be made before a crisis ever occurs, but it is never too late to start. You may need help to make a crisis plan, such as a friend. A crisis plan aims to think about what support you may need in a crisis. You need to make a list of things that will help you when you need them.


You can write down a list of people who would help you, along with a with good things in your life. There is no prescribed way for how a crisis plan should look. Your plan should look your way!


4. LOOK AT YOUR CRISIS BOX


A crisis box is also called, 'happy box' or 'hope box.' The idea of a crisis box is to fill it with items that improve how you feel. You can use it in times of anxiousness, stress, or suicide.

The crisis box is personal to you and filled with anything, such as:

  • Favorite CD,

  • Something to distract you, like puzzles, games, or coloring books,

  • Positive things you have learned in therapy sessions,

  • Your crisis plan,

  • Photographs of people you love,

  • Your favorite sweets.

5. BE AWARE OF TRIGGERS


Triggers are things that might make you feel worse. Triggers are different for everyone. If you have specific music, photos, or films that make you feel worse, stay away from them. Be self-aware by identifying triggers in your life that can make you feel unwell. Write down your triggers can help you understand them and be more in control of your feelings or stress levels.


6. STAY AWAY FROM DRUGS AND ALCOHOL


Alcohol can affect the parts of your brain that controls judgment, concentration, behavior, and emotions. Drinking alcohol can make you act on suicidal thoughts.


Drugs hurt the way you think and feel. Every drug has different effects. While cocaine may make you feel happy and more likely to take risks, you can feel depressed after it wears off. Other medications can cause confusion, paranoia, and hallucinations. You may be more prone to bring your own life from these effects.


7. TALK TO OTHER PEOPLE


Talking to someone is imperative. Different people can help. You could speak to friends or family.


Remember to be patient with your friends and family who may want to help. They may not understand or who how to right away. If this occurs, tell them what you want from them or how you are feeling.


If you do not want to talk to anyone you know, you can call emotional support lines or use an online support group.


8. BE AROUND OTHER PEOPLE


If it becomes too difficult to speak to anyone, that's fine. But do not spend too much time alone. You could go to the gym, shopping center, a park, or a coffee shop. Being around people can help keep you safe, even if they do not know how you feel.


9. DISTRACT YOURSELF


Although suicide encompasses your thoughts, you must distract yourself to make yourself feel stronger and find a way to cope with these feelings. Think about what you enjoy doing, like these distracting activities:

  • Read a book or magazine.

  • Watch a film or TV.

  • Go to a museum.

  • Draw or paint.

  • Listen to music.

  • Play video games.

  • Singing your favorite songs.

  • Spend time with your dog.

  • Set small goals that are easy to focus on. You could do the laundry, cook a small meal or organize something.

10. MAKE A LIST


List all positive things about your life. This may be difficult to think of at first, but it is imperative to try. Think about your strengths and the positive things that other people have stated about you. Every day, write down something you felt good about, something you did, something someone did for you, and document how that felt.


11. EXERCISE


Exercise has excellent effects on your mood and thinking. Exercise is thought to release "feel good" hormones, dopamine and serotonin. Go Workout! It does the mind and body good!


12. RELAX


There are many ways that you can do to relax, such as:

  • Walking in outdoors areas,

  • Listen to nature,

  • Pay attention to beautiful aromas like coffee shops, favorite food, perfumes or soaps,

  • Treat yourself to the food you like and pay close attention to how it tastes, feels in your mouth, and what you like so much about it,

  • Have a relaxing bath or shower,

  • Looking at images that you appreciate, such as photographs,

  • Meditation or mindfulness,

  • Breathing techniques or guided meditation. You can find these through a podcast.

Mindfulness is a type of meditation. It is where you focus on your mind and body to pay attention to the present moment in your life. Mindfulness allows you to learn to be more aware of your thoughts and feelings. This awareness will enable you to better deal with them.


Breathing exercise for you to try


Breathing starts with good posture, sitting on the floor, back straight, and shoulders back. Focus on your breathing by closing your eyes. Then close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Think about how your breathing feels while slowing your breathing down. Bring your attention back to your breathing if you start to have upsetting thoughts.

You may be thinking thoughts such as the following:

  • 'The world would be a better place without me.'

  • 'My family would be better without me.'

  • 'No one would care if I'm not here.'

Although these thoughts may be shared, they are not correct. You matter!

Think about the people you will be leaving behind. They need you!

Ending your life will have adverse effects on those around you. Although you may not think it will, this may affect friends, family, employers, and neighbors.


13. SLOW YOUR BREATHING


Suicidal thoughts can be scary and very easy to get overwhelmed. Start by slowing your breathing to reduce your heart rate while diverting your attention away from the thoughts you are encountering.


  • Take controlled deep inhales and exhales breathing – four seconds in, hold for four, four seconds out– then repeat.

14. RE-FOCUS YOUR ATTENTION


Shift your attention away from the negative thoughts of hurting yourself onto something else. It can be challenging at first, but with practice, you will distance yourself from those unwanted thoughts.


A. VISUALIZATIONS


  • Breathing through visualization techniques can help. Imagine your lungs filling up with air, with your diaphragm rising and falling. The more detail you add, the better the effects.

  • If counting your breaths, visualize writing out the numbers

  • Imagining yourself in a calm and safe place, spending time with someone you love, or calling on your faith to help.

B. USE YOUR SENSES


  • Close your eyes! After a few moments and then open them. Focus your attention on your surroundings. Try describing what you see in detail – what is the texture of the ground, what colors are on the walls, what sounds can you hear? The more senses you employ, the more you can shift your focus away from painful thoughts.

C. MUSCLE RELAXATIONS


Often, when overwhelmed, your muscles tighten without realizing it.

  • Focus on relaxing your muscles. Start slowly relaxing each muscle group while working your way down from head to toe (face, jaw, neck, shoulders, abs, back, arms, legs, calves, etc.). Use your hands to massage your body to help you relax.

16. REACH OUT


Reaching out is crucial. Even if you do not think the thoughts are that serious, talking about them with others is essential for addressing these thoughts and surrounding yourself with people who care about you, rather than isolating yourself. For people to help – you must let them know what is going on.

  • Call a Healthline or a friend to explain that you are going through a particularly rough time and need support.

  • Friends and family often visit people while recovering from cancer or surgery. The same type of support can help with recovery from depression.

  • Do not let fears of being 'locked up' prevent you from reaching out and sharing your suicidal thoughts with others. Various professional services and levels of care can help, including finding and talking to a therapist. Hospital care is temporary and crucial for recovery. There is no shame in this.

  • If you need more urgent support, call 911. Your safety is your priority, and there are professionals out there who want to help.

17. REMIND YOURSELF OF RECOVERY


Recovering from depression is learning how to overcome these thoughts without getting down on yourself for having them.

  • Recovery is possible! Many people have experienced similar suicidal thoughts and feelings and have survived. Suicidal thoughts may be alarming, but they will go away. Figure out the best strategies that work for you.

18. PREVENTATIVE MEASURES

  • Get a regular and ample amount of sleep and exercise, along with eating healthy.

  • If you are taking prescribed medicine (whether for a physical illness or a mental health problem), talk to your doctor before you stop taking any medications.

  • Your doctor can arrange if you need to take time off work or school.

  • Keep a diary. Writing things down can be therapeutic and help you understand your thoughts and feelings or react to situations. It also helps in finding solutions to problems.

  • Do things you find healing. Go for a massage.

  • Express yourself, your way: sing, take photos, dance, draw.

  • Learn how other people cope with suicide. Watch videos or read books. It really can help hear other people's perceptions of how they managed their desire to die. Support groups are very effective for this.

  • Connect with the areas of your life that give you more meaning, e.g., your friends, culture, spirituality, whatever you are passionate about. Go to places that restore you—the beach, home with family, the mountains, fishing, etc.