By Vicki Lane
As National Suicide Prevention Month winds down, Hope For The Warriors® would like to leave you with a veteran’s story that we hope will remind you how important it is to turn awareness into a shared responsibility to prevent yet another veteran suicide—not just during the month of September, but year round.
A female veteran came to Hope For The Warriors® for assistance while she was recovering at a military medical center for an attempted suicide. A Clinical Team Member from Hope For The Warriors® was assigned to assist during her continued recovery and transition. As a medic deployed to Afghanistan she experienced unspeakable tragedies—many involving children—and had difficulty putting those experiences and memories behind her. She began feeling she did not deserve to have children since she couldn’t protect the children she saw in Afghanistan. The veteran shared with the team member that her family had fallen apart while she was suffering from the effects of her combat experiences.
This veteran began to push her family away, feeling they would be better off without her. She shared that she became angry, impatient, withdrawn, and unable to sleep. What put her “over the edge,” however, was when she officially found out she was to be medically discharged due to her severe PTSD. Although she was receiving treatment for her symptoms and recognized she could not continue to perform her duties, she was nonetheless devastated when the decision was final. She shared that she never had any stability in her life until she joined the military. She also said that she’d been very successful in the military, quickly gained rank, and had planned to make military service a career. She had finally found a place she felt complete, safe, and successful—and she was losing all of that.
So she decided she couldn’t go back to a life without the stability and support she had found in the military. She shared that she was already in the process of divorcing her husband and had sent her children to stay with extended family members in another state. She made plans to die by an overdose of sleeping medications she’d saved up over the previous months. She felt alone, that no one cared, and that she, and everyone around her, would be better off if she were gone. When asked if she told anyone of her plans, she said she really didn’t speak to anyone, that she had withdrawn from her family, friends, and co-workers. When asked if she would have shared her suicide plans with someone if they had asked her if she was thinking of suicide, she paused, considered the question, and quietly answered that she very well may have because it would have meant someone cared.
But no one asked and she attempted suicide two months prior to her estimated discharge date. Fortunately, she had second thoughts after she took the medication, sharing that her children’s faces flashed before her eyes, and she called 911. The paramedics arrived in time to save her life, although she suffered serious injuries from the overdose.
Happy to be alive and anxious to reunite with her children, this veteran is now attending intensive outpatient treatment for PTSD and is scheduled to attend an intensive inpatient program later this fall. She plans to begin nursing school in the near future, hopeful that nursing will bring her the same sense of success and belonging she found as a medic in the military.
As she shared, she may not have attempted suicide if someone had noticed the changes and cared enough to ask if she was considering suicide. We ask that you help Hope For The Warriors® bring awareness to suicide by joining our efforts to fight the stigma, provide support, and continue education on the needs of our service members, veterans, and military families.
For Suicide Prevention Week and beyond, Hope For The Warriors® understands the importance of our shared responsibility to turn awareness into action. To honor the 22 veterans who die by suicide each day, we encourage you to make a $22 donation to collectively impact the lives of veterans who need our help. Also consider a recurring monthly donation to support military families throughout the year.
As always, thank you for joining in our mission to restore self, family, and HOPE.