Posted by Jenna Wilkins Perminas
I am sure your social media feed has been flooded with the news of Robin Williams’s death. His nearly three-decade career in the entertainment industry has enriched all of our lives no doubt- but what struck me the most was his dedication to our troops; it was unwavering. He allowed us to divert the grim reality of war, even just for an evening, to a world of laughter.
His death brings me to a larger epidemic that I believe we need to discuss. Some folks believe that suicide is a selfish and a cowardly act- and they are entitled to their opinion. However, depression is not a condition to which one wakes up to and shouts “depression; come and get me!” It is invasive and relentless in its goal of permanently demoralizing an individual. You can look at depression as a parasite; once it finds a host, it will progressively deprive the miracle fiber called courage (as George Patton liked to say). Critics labeling suicide as a selfish and cowardly act is not only insulting the deceased; but are adding to the ignorance that depression does not discriminate. It could happen to your loved one. It could happen to you.
We have all been through those days when we are feeling completely miserable; and the only feasible course of action at that moment might be to whale uncontrollably, or kick someone in the nuts. Don’t confuse those temporary emotions with clinically diagnosed depression.
No matter how strong your conviction about suicide, do not tell a veteran’s family that their loved one was a selfish coward. An individual who has not served in the military will never understand the catastrophic and hopelessness one might face; not only in a combat environment but upon returning home as well. Before veterans can transition and have successful careers, they need to be mentally tough; capable of being resilient and triumph over obstacles that they WILL encounter in the civilian world. Asking for help is the most courageous thing one can do, and to stigmatize that action only goes to show the true price of ignorance.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, an average of 22 veterans take their life everyday- that is one veteran every 65 minutes. This number is based only on the 21 states (40% of the U.S. population) that participated; while California, Texas, and llinois’ data was not included. There are also veteran suicides that failed to be reported as suicides. Nearly one in five suicides nationally is a veteran, even though veterans make up about 10% of the U.S. population, a News21 analysis reports.
We must not forget that veteran suicide is not only the government’s responsibility, but also OUR responsibility as society. We need to change the public stigma of suicide for ALL human beings. Do not judge, unless you have walked a mile in their shoes. A simple phone call or a tap on the shoulder can mean the difference in life and death.
There are plenty of resources out there for people needing assistance. For veterans, here are just a few links.
Ranger-Up Talks Suicide Archive
Vets 4 Warriors
Make The Connection/Suicide
Veteran Crisis Line
VA Suicide Prevention