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When a veteran struggles with suicide

You probably have a military veteran in your family or among your friends and neighbors. You watched that young person grow up and go off to serve their country. And maybe you prayed for that young person’s safety often when you learned he or she was going to a country where there is war action going on. The same young person who left is not the same person when he or she come home. Life looks different when he comes back from deployment. Maybe he has physical injuries and impairments that you can see. Maybe she looks fine on the outside, but inside she is suffering from “seeing things a woman should never see,” as one military veteran said.

There is a video at YouTube, “Left Behind: The Legacy of Veteran Suicide,” produced by Mighty Oaks Foundation – Warrior Programs. A wife explains what happened to her husband and how she survived his suicide. She thought everything was going to be all right. He told her he was going to get off the oxycontin that had been prescribed after back surgery and they were going to make it.

The Wounded Warrior Project advises that, “more than 52,000 servicemen and women have been physically injured in recent military conflicts, 500,000 living with invisible wounds from depression to post traumatic stress disorder, 320,000 experiencing debilitating brain trauma. Advances in technology and medicine save lives, but the quality of those lives might be profoundly altered.”

There are warning signs to indicate a veteran who is contemplating suicide. They appear sad, depressed most of the time, hopeless. Anxiety, agitation, mood swings, and trouble sleeping are problems. They may get angry and rage, show risky behaviors, lose interest in things that used to be important to them like work and hobbies. They may begin to drink heavier or misuse drugs, neglect themselves, withdraw from others. They might start giving away precious possessions and start tying up loose ends as they set their affairs in order.

“No matter what you are experiencing, there is support for getting your life back on track,” is the word from the veterans crisis line. In Columbiana County, help is there for veterans at the East Liverpool VA Clinic (330-386-4303), Youngstown VA Clinic (330-740-9200) or Veavery County VA Clinic (724-709-6005). The veteran’s crisis hotline is 800-273-8255 Press 1. The Veterans Crisis Text Line is 838255.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, “It’s important to note that suicide is a complex issue with a multitude of contributing factors – and there is no single explanation for disparities in veteran suicide rates across different states … demographics, unemployment rates, or firearm policy make it difficult to compare veteran suicide between states or regions.”

In fiscal year 2018, the VA provided more than 2.4 million same day mental health appointments, and hired 1,000 new mental health professionals last year. Also in FY18, more than 120,000 new veterans enrolled in services within 60 days of their military separation. The Veterans Crisis Line has handled 3.8 million calls since 2007 and dispatched emergency services 112,000 times. The veterans chat online has received 439,000 requests for chat services since 2009. Since 2011, the crisis line texting service has had 108,000 requests for text services.

Help is available, for the veteran and for the veteran’s family. A once taboo subject has to be talked about to become aware, to understand the whys and prevent suicide from happening.

Family Recovery Center will host its annual Tribute to Veterans at the corner of North Market Street and Saltwell Road, Lisbon, at 4 p.m. Nov. 8. This event is open to the public to honor military veterans.

Addiction has no address, but Family Recovery Center does. For more information about the education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related behavioral issues, contact the agency at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468; or e-mail, info@familyrecovery.org. FRC is funded in part by United Way of Northern Columbiana County.

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