I write about suicide this month because of the timing of National Suicide Prevention Week earlier this month and the Army’s expanded observance throughout September. Knowing that preventing suicides is a growing challenge in the military as well as the military family (read: spouses), I was watching the offerings of training and dialogue closely.
In the past summits have been cancelled, annual briefings were “check the block” and clinical in nature, and the stigma for reporting any psychological “weakness” was extreme. Even during this current awareness campaign, broken hyperlinks were sent out in e-mail messages and existed on recommended websites, and Soldiers I know grumbled about the lack of a plan for the Army-Wide Stand Down. These are unfortunate happenings, but I hope they were few and far between and only caught by me because I was listening and watching so intently.
The good thing I saw was that the Mission sought to include families, reduce stigma, and promote overall well-being:
Enhance the development of a healthy Force and join our Nation
in observing National Suicide Prevention Week 10 -14 Sep 12
and World Suicide Prevention Day 10 Sep 12.
Expand our observance with events occurring during the entire month of September,
focusing efforts on total Army Family well-being, resilience, stigma reduction
and positive results achieved by getting involved and reaching out for help.
~Army Suicide Prevention Month 2012 MISSION
It is specifically the second half of the mission, focusing on positive results achieved by getting involved and reaching out for help, that I want to address to our network.
I submit to you that getting involved and reaching out for help are two sides of the same coin. As we get more involved in supporting our Soldier, care giving, and sharing the burden across military families, we need to be more proactive in reaching out for help. If not, the downward spiral looks like something like the following:
The I in suicide.
I go through the motions.
I suffer in silence.
I can’t fix myself.
I feel alone.
I am overwhelmed.
I have no way of letting out these emotions.
Whether talking about you or me, we have the best of intentions of giving our all. We can, once or twice or for a short time, but with multiple deployments fatigue and frustration sets in. With multiple deployments the risk of military spouse suicides rise.
According to one ongoing study by the Military Suicide Research Consortium individuals report that they tried to commit suicide to, “end bad feelings.” I don’t know about you, but a lot of my bad feelings stem from not being able to “do it all” and feeling like “I’m the only one this is hard for.”
Like the poem says:
I feel alone. I am overwhelmed.
I was the I in suicide once.
I am here today because I reached out. None of the things that I thought would happen when I let out those emotions happened. My husband didn’t say I should suck it up, that I was weak, or that I should fix myself.
I know not all of us have our Soldiers to lean on. They are struggling as we are, but I hope you know that somewhere you have someone who understands what you’re going through. (I’m someone.)
I found saying and sharing what I was going through out loud was what saved me. Until you let out those emotions, you will remain in a battle to “end bad feelings” and those internal battles are the worst. There is no one to validate you, share how they got through, and the sheer will it takes to hide it all can break you.
If you are in that struggle due to burn out or overwhelmedness and don’t believe you have anyone to reach out to, there is a place where other spouses wait for you. In all my years, I was never touched so much by any “awareness” effort as I was by the JustWait.us video compiled by military spouses who reached out and the non-profit, Not Alone, who was there for them.
I echo their final words: All you need to do is reach out, share, call for us, and we will be there.
You don’t have to be the I in suicide. Remember instead: I can get involved. I can reach out for help.
Please, please remember.