Our veterans are such a symbol of strength for this country that when we hear the troubling truth about the high incidence of suicide among returning troops, it can seem implausible. The fact is that though they serve with pride and valor, the toll of combat enacts itself on different people in different ways, with some bearing a greater amount of strain than others. Coming to terms with this means acknowledging that it is a serious problem in the veteran community.
Suicide is of course a problem for many different kinds of people, but it can be an especially severe issue for former military members. A 2012 study from the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine found that “combat veterans are not only more likely to have suicidal ideation, often associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, but they are more likely to act on a suicidal plan.” Addressing this need is a shared job for all Americans who enjoy their freedom and way of life.
Taking on this cause can seem like a monumental task, and perhaps it is. Nevertheless, many noble organizations are dedicated to engaging with at-risk vets and seeing to it that these valued servicemen and women don’t fall through the cracks. Suicide prevention is a multi-faceted task for which many prevention approaches exist, so different organizations can offer a variety of services to remind these hard-working heroes that they have not been forgotten, and that there is a nation of people who want to see them live fulfilling lives.
Lifeline for Vets
Lifeline for Vets is a unique crisis hotline in that their counselors have all served in the Armed Forces themselves. As the people who would most understand the issues facing their fellow veterans, they provide access to a highly sympathetic community that vets in need can rely upon. So often our servicemen and women end their lives due to a perceived lack of concern, and the Veteran’s Crisis Line is dedicated to providing a caring set of ears to engage with those who are feeling despondent, from those who are best equipped to understand the unique issues of returning home from combat.
Stop Soldier Suicide
One reason for the high suicide rate among veterans is the difficulty in returning to normal, civilian life after the high-energy, extremely structured world of foreign deployment. To help with these structural complexities, Stop Soldier Suicide streamlines access to various services and programs to lessen the burden on those who have served. Mental health assistance, emergency financial aid, and therapeutic assistance are just a few of the things offered by Stop Soldier Suicide to help in their mission to fight the military suicide rate at the roots.
Boots on the Ground
Home to over 182,000 veterans, the five boroughs of New York City make up the largest metropolitan region in the country. The greater New York Metropolitan area reaches even further, and is home to many veterans in need of a helping hand. Boots on the Ground offers assistance and information for those who may have been overlooked by the existing system. Their suicide-related outreach and education programs offer a comprehensive care network and provides the entire community with information through seminars and social events.
Swords to Plowshares
Another organization setting an admirable standard for community-based veteran engagement, this one on the other side of the country, is the San Francisco Bay Area-based Swords to Plowshares. Swords to Plowshares was founded by Vietnam veterans who felt a need to address the unique needs of their fellow vets, notably including messaging aimed at the community at large to educate all area residents on ways they can understand and assist the returning veteran population. Their Combat to Community initiative offers resources both online and off for providing the support network for veterans that keeps them aware that they are valued even after they transition into civilian life. Their sacrifice must never be forgotten, and through community-based programs we can ensure that it won’t be.