By JB Moore, NAMI Military and Veterans Policy and Support Manager
September is Suicide Prevention Month—a time to raise public awareness that suicide is a serious and preventable public health concern.
As commercial news beats the war drum, its a good time to reach out to veterans, active duty service members, National Guard members, reservists and military-connected family members impacted by the invisible wounds of war and encourage them to trust that there are constructive ways to resolve whatever challenges they face. The American people owe so much to these individuals.
Now is the time to play a role in preventing suicide—to reach out in a timely manner to someone at risk, especially current and former service members, and encourage them to seek help. It is a myth that seeking help is a sign of weakness. The truth is seeking mental health treatment is a choice that embodies moral courage and integrity. It is a sign of strength and effective treatment is available.
So, what can you do?
- Know the suicide warning signs.
- Know who is at risk for suicide, how suicide can be prevented and what friends and family members can do to help.
- Know where to turn during a suicide-related crisis:
Todd Rich, a member of NAMI Mississippi and NAMI Veterans and Military Council Representative learned from personal experience with a veteran peer that was considering suicide that camaraderie with another veteran can help prevent suicide. Rich recommends being assertive with the individual at risk: “Talk to the individual with some authority. Find common ground. Tell the person: What you’re doing is wrong and you know it. Let him or her know that there is another way out. Don’t sugar coat it!”
Despite some improvement over the years, society still adheres to many negative stereotypes towards individuals living with mental illness. Such stereotypes lead to discrimination against those who need help most. As we recognize Suicide Prevention Month, let us imagine a near future when persons affected by mental illness, including current and former service members and their families, receive the same full range of integrated diagnosis, treatment services, and supports across a continuum of care available to all people with serious mental illness. We must inspire hope and work together to stem the tide of suicide among veterans and military families.