Posted by Corina Notyce, DCoE Public Affairs on June 5, 2013
Below is a blog post from the Department of Veterans Affairs blog, "VAntage Point."
Veterans are naturally drawn to communities. We're closer than brothers and sisters in the military, and we're more than a family in combat. But once we leave a cohesive unit, joining a community is voluntary. Organizations like Team Rubicon and Team Red, White and Blue have capitalized on the military ethos of community and cohesiveness to support the veteran population.
Yet, even with support networks in place, some vets in crisis unfortunately take their lives. In war, many lives are saved in the golden hour — the small window of time someone can survive serious wounds if they get immediate medical attention. But, what about a golden hour for veterans who need mental health attention?
The tragic suicides of Team Rubicon members Clay Hunt in 2011 and Neil Landsberg this year remind us that we must keep a golden hour with each other, a pact to help look after each other and get help to those who need it fast.
Here are a few things you can do as a member of the veteran community to recognize either yourself or your buddies in crisis, and to get immediate help.
Know what suicidal behavior looks like
The awful thing about a mental health crisis is there's not always some grand gesture or clear sign that someone is thinking about harming themselves. Folks often hide their issues for a number of reasons, and signs of struggle aren't as apparent. However, there are known suicide-related risk factors, like a family history of suicide, relationship and financial problems, among othersthat you should know. If you notice a string of hopelessness, rage, a boost in alcohol or drug use, withdrawing from family, andother factors, don't hesitate; get yourself, your buddy or your loved one immediate assistance.
Use the Veterans Crisis Line
The Veterans Crisis Line is staffed 24/7 by professional responders who can immediately connect veterans and family members with mental health resources. The number is 800-273-8255 (press "1" for veterans or their families or friends). You can also text838255 or chat online. Save the number into your phone, write it down and stick it on the fridge, post the link on Facebook — do everything you can to get it out there. It should be a reflexive action to dial the number if you catch even an inkling of someone in crisis.
Get help at a Vet Center
Vet Centers are a unique support system for combat veterans and their families. More than 300 offices around the country are staffed by mental health and family professionals like psychologists and social workers to help with challenges associated with combat, such as posttraumatic stress disorder. They also offer services for families. All this is done in an environment that's as welcoming and non-clinical as possible. Vet Centers often have extended and weekend hours to accommodate busy schedules and are frequently staffed by fellow veterans to extend the feeling of community. Check out Vet Center services and locations in your community, and make sure to keep the location handy.
The burden of war on the mind eases in time, for most, but it never fades completely. Sometimes it can be difficult to shoulder that burden — even with the help of a community. While it's a promising sign that we're continuing to hire more mental health clinicians, we have a long way to go on two fronts: spreading awareness of VA mental health care services and breaking down the stigma of seeking care. So, let's normalize outreach in our communities. Make it a standard operating procedure in your local or national group to discuss suicide signs and mental health resources. Call your buddies and check to see how they're doing. Just remember, the golden hour may have arrived for someone you know, and there are no second chances to get it back.
If you're a service member in crisis, or know someone who may be showing signs and symptoms that suggest they may need help, call the Military Crisis Line or Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 and press 1 to talk to someone.
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