Reach out and hold on: discussing suicide
Updated: Aug 21, 2021
As a veteran, I’ve struggled with dark thoughts and terrifying urges that no person should have to endure. Yet sadly, many veterans deal with the same darkness every day of their lives, and every day, twenty-two American veterans lose their lives to suicide. Think about that number for a second. Picture all the people you know and count them up. Now imagine waking up tomorrow to find twenty-two of them are no longer living. Then another twenty-two the next day. How many people do you even know, anyway? You’d run out in under a week. So let’s talk about what we can all do to combat this issue because it truly is a crisis.
If you’re the one struggling with these dark thoughts, don’t listen. I used to make arguments against why I should do it, but that only fixated me more on the problem, making the thoughts louder. When I feel that way now, I try staying in the present. Ruminating over the past and being frightened over the future are killers, so I try to involve myself in whatever I’m doing the moment the negative thoughts start racing. Mindfulness has been my number one defense against these disturbances.
Another thing I do is talk to people. I tell my family and friends how I’m doing on the inside and ask how I seem outside. We work together to monitor the whole picture when need be. That’s crucial for me because I tend to lie to myself. But some signs of mental decline can’t be ignored, even by me. Being bad about brushing my teeth and sleeping at night are two big ones. Keeping an eye on the signs is key to ensuring psychological wellbeing. I’m gonna be honest; I’m not very good at talking about suicidal thoughts and feelings, but it’s something I’m working on. Quick recap of what I do: get out of my head, monitor my wellbeing, and talk to others about when I’m not feeling okay.
Now for the friends and family of those who are going through rough times. Your loved one may not know how to talk about this, so it may be up to you to initiate the conversation. If someone is suffering, there’s a big chance their strength to go on is fading, and nothing combats that like support and the hope it brings. When someone feels this way, it’s scary and even shameful to some. Being suicidal doesn’t make people weak or cowardly, but some often feel that way. It’s up to us as supports to remind people how strong and significant they are. A simple phone call can go a long way. Maybe take them out for coffee or any other activity they may enjoy. Make it clear that they are an important, valuable part of your life, and you need them in it.
Lastly, I want to remind you, if you are suffering, that there are other ways to move on from what you’re dealing with. There are mental health programs, both inpatient and outpatient. There are people that you can call if you’re in crisis and places you can go so you won’t be alone with your painful thoughts. I know therapy and medication aren’t magical cures, but make sure to stick with them and be honest with the mental health professionals you see. If you’re not getting help, please change that because anything is better than what you feel now. There are other ways, and there is so much out there for you. We may have never met, but I’m telling you that you’re important and the world is better with you in it. Hang on. Reach out. You’ll get there.
If you’re contemplating suicide, please choose life. Keep fighting. I know you can. If you’re suicidal, the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255. There’s nothing to lose by calling.