VETERANS CORNER: Help available to veterans who are at risk for suicide

Veterans Administration facility at Togus. (Internet photo)

by Gary Kennedy

Well here we are again. It has been a nice summer and a beautiful September. We have a lot of rain but we have need of every drop of it.

Some information has come out on the veteran side of things. As you all know some of us belong to groups and some of us just receive information via media, correspondence and just word of mouth. One interesting but troubling piece of information that I received this week was veteran suicide rates. It was stated that there are between 17-50 veteran deaths due to possible suicide daily. It was explained that the variation in numbers was due to the fact 17 deaths daily were definitely suicide but the other 33 were by drug overdoses which weren’t clearly suicide but were most likely.

By VA standards of measure that is more than likely or beyond a reasonable doubt. It breaks my heart to see this happening to our vets; especially when there are many avenues available out there for help. I believe we aren’t doing our job of outreach. Veterans can be very lonely and weary individuals. Some will reach out to us, and for others we just need to be ever vigilant and watch for signs. Often veterans will not reach out for help. We need to be always on the lookout for tell tale signs which indicate that a person might be considering to harm themselves.

Most of us don’t understand what goes through the mind of a person which causes such devastating feelings of hopelessness. This can be so all consuming, overwhelming, that even the fear of our Creator doesn’t come into the problem. We need to be ever vigilant regarding the veterans in our lives whether they are family or friends. If you suspect a person might want to harm themselves you need to become involved. If you can be of personal help, give it. If you can’t do that then you must contact someone who can. A life can depend on it and all life is precious in the eyes of our Creator. Also, the one thing that most of us don’t think about is the wife, husband and/or children. Where will this loss take them? Sometimes the family is the last to know. However, the impact could be devastating. We are all part of the problem as well as the solution.

If you don’t have the number for a suicide watch line, get one and put it on your fridge, or in your phone. Most of these sad situations can be avoided with a little help. I speak for and about veterans but this could be anyone in a deep and lonely place. Some of us watch veterans at this time as the world is in a sad and dangerous place. Many veterans have fought for their country and are now having feelings of remorse. They don’t understand how we could possibly be heading in the wrong direction. They carry the burdens of a never ending conflict.

The mind can play strange games on one’s self. If you don’t know where to turn call the VA at 623-8411 and press “0” to get to a live person to guide you to the correct place, or you can call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, press #1. Our doctors use to send us to the gym and pool which was built more than 75 years ago for this, as part of physical therapy. If you would like to read about the VA’s history you can find most of this at the Winthrop library where a good deal of the old information is stored/archived. Currently, the gym and pool are being rented out to VA employees. I believe they are charged $45 for this use. Some of us are working on getting these places back. Give a token of your support by getting involved.

The VA priority pathway has seemed to have changed from the welfare of disabled veterans and their care to that of employee retention, through perks. The canteen is still open and some veterans do meet there weekly. Some of us are working on more veterans well being programs and places. Vets always feel better when they are together. A sign of V.A.’s genuine concern would be to give veterans a place to meet so as to become part of the solution through fellowship. Priorities need to be examined. Your word needs to be shared.

If you have any thoughts, ideas or opinions, please share them with me and we will see what can be done. Your word carries a lot of weight. It is said, “God helps those who help themselves”. Brothers and sisters let’s be part of the solution and not the problem. Stay safe and God bless you and yours.


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