By Blayne Smith, Executive Director
As you probably know, September is national Suicide Prevention Month. Here’s a startling statistic: nearly 40,000 Americans take their own lives each year, making it the 10th leading cause of death. Perhaps worse, each suicide creates ripples of pain that extend to countless friends, family members, neighbors, and loved ones. It is a very real challenge for our society. So, what can you do to help?
To start, I would just like to note that while many suicides are preceded by warning signs, not every suicide is necessarily preventable. Very often, in the wake of a suicide, friends and family are overcome with guilt because they “should have done more”. The truth is, we should educate ourselves on the signs, we should reach out, we should have the courage to ask if someone is considering hurting themselves, and we should lend an empathetic ear. We should do all of this knowing that we can only do our best and that the outcome is not solely ours to bear.
The very best thing you can do is to simply be there, as suicides are often the result of overwhelming feelings of hopelessness. This is why we focus so much on connection at Team RWB. Each month we count up the number of Unique Veteran Interactions (UVIs) that take place across the organization. This is a simple measure of how many times a veteran actually shows up to one of our local activities. It may not sound like a sexy stat, but we understand its power. Spending time with members of our community, especially through positive activities like exercise, builds trust, friendship, understanding…and sometimes, much needed hope. If you’re an active member of our team, thank you for showing up and being there for one another. You may not realize it on a daily basis, but what you’re doing is extremely important. If you’ve been thinking about getting involved, but aren’t sure how to start, just show up. Find the nearest Team RWB chapter and join the team. Finally, if you are concerned about someone you love, please, ask the question even if it is uncomfortable. You may not be an expert or a doctor, but you can be there for someone, and being there is a big deal.
If someone you or someone you know needs to talk to a professional, please visit our amazing friends and partners for free, confidential mental and behavioral health counseling.
Give An Hour is a nonprofit organization that provides free mental health services to military personnel and families affected by the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Vet Centers provide free and confidential readjustment counseling and other services to combat veterans and their families in more than 300 local communities.