Let’s remember the Fallen: Suicide and Veterans

Oh, we like cause and effect.  We can control cause and effect. If we do not like the effects, we change the causes. Period.

Only, no person and their thoughts are that easily defined. PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is not the cause of veteran deaths by suicide.  False guilt and survivor’s guilt are not either. Physical pain – no.  Grief – no. So why do suicidal thoughts exist? Why do valiant veterans die by suicide?

Myths about suicide

Myth 1: It is always a choice. Science has not caught up to this one, but from what I understand, biology as well as mental illness can create a state of mind that steals a person’s “choice” by robbing them of critical thinking skills or an even sense of reality. Suicide is usually impulsive, rarely pre-planned. Substance use lessens inhibitions and can play a large role in completed suicides. Even if a suicide may seem reasoned out, the mindset of the person who dies is that of hopelessness for change. 

Myth 2: It is caused by a bad attitude. Negativity can influence a person’s sense of hope and wellbeing. However, living in pain, be it emotional or otherwise, can make it difficult to maintain positivity. Mood disorders such as depression have symptoms that include irritability and a negative mindset. Symptoms and personality are not the same things. 

Myth 3: Weak people die by suicide. I will not glamorize suicide. It is not a show of courage. With that said, a moment or period of complex weakness does not define the whole person. Same as a cancer death often follows a long and brave battle, so can suicide.

Myth 4: Suicide is a selfish act. I and every person who has ever discussed their suicide attempts with me, has experienced a similar thought, everyone will be better off without me. Parents of young children start to believe they are hurting their kids and a replacement parent would be best. Spouses think they cause their partner too much pain. Veterans may come to question their value to society or doubt they will be missed. Suicide is not selfish. 

Myth 5: In the case of a suicide death, professional treatment failed. There are complex issues involved in mental healthcare, and perhaps the most vital part of healing is compliance. If I did not disclose information, or refused the advice of mental healthcare professionals, or did not continue treatment, they could not be blamed for missing cues. Veterans may struggle to find continuity of care due to red tape, location, and other reasons. 

Myth 6: If someone who saw a psychiatrist dies by suicide, it is because medications failed to help. Compliance is necessary. Not all medications work the same for everyone. If after a month a client stops taking them because “they didn’t work”, or does not take them as prescribed,  neither the medication nor the psychiatrist is the cause of a client’s worsening symptoms.  Finances and lack of access can disrupt a veteran’s medical care. Never mind the very nature of mood disorders and anxiety can include a lack of motivation for self-care.

Myth 7: It’s too uncomfortable to talk about. In American society right now during the coronavirus shutdowns, suicide rates have sky-rocketed. Talking about it directly (“Are you thinking about killing yourself?”) saves lives. Discussing the topic intelligently in general conversation saves lives.  This weekend, as veterans contemplate losses of life, remind them you care. 

 #1 reason for death by suicide

Regardless of all the reasons in a world of scenarios, suicide is ultimately the result of seeing no other tolerable option.  This is why I wrote that PTSD, a sense of guilt, physical pain, and grief are not causes of veteran deaths by suicide.  It is the absence of hope for change that leads a person to feel trapped and helpless.  

I am grateful that Christ Jesus led me to good professionals who knew how to offer tolerable options I could not imagine on my own. Eventually I learned God’s love is always enough.  It is my prayer for all veterans to discover the love of God and to find safety and care as they overcome life’s challenges.  

Today’s Helpful Word  

Lamentations 3: 19-23

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness, and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

 

Nancy Virden Seminar, May-2016
Photo Joe Boyle Photography

Always the Fight Ministries (ATFM) has been displaying compassion for those fighting mental illness, addiction, or abuse since 2012. Nancy is the founder and voice of ATFM and openly shares her emotional resurrection from despair. 

*** COMMENTS ALWAYS WELCOME

NOTE: I am not a doctor or a mental health professional, and speak only from personal experiences and observations. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.

If you are feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S. or go to your nearest emergency room. In the EU call 112. (For other international emergency numbers, go here ). Hope and help are yours!

*Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright (c) 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.., Carlo Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved

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