22, that's the number on average a day veterans take their lives. While we are inundated with that number whenever we have an event, or get ready to deploy, for some that number is just that, a number. Unless you have been through it, or know of someone that is has happened to, you feel for those in that situation. Like many other things in life, if it really isn't directly affecting you, its just another after thought. I know, I was one of those who felt the same way.
Some look at it as this is combat related, and that is what disconnects them from feeling that it will never happen to them. That's not true at all. 22, represents how many take their lives and during a study by the DoD there is no direct correlation with combat related stress and the reason veterans take their lives. Now, for the purpose of this article I am going to focus on men, not that women are not suffering from the same problem, but women make up 2 percent of the military population.
The reason why I am focusing on men is because we are seeing more and more men take their lives for other than combat related stress that affects them directly. The drivers of this are divorce, financial struggles, child custody, and other factors that stem from childhood. There is a huge stigma on men in general that mental health is not something to be promoted because as men, we are taught to just focus on the mission at hand. We aren't taught to deal with these emotions and thus creates something that has become overlooked because, well we're men.
In an article in the LA Ties in 2015, the author found out that for every 100,000 men 18-29 years old, 83.3 veterans and 17.6 civilians take their life each year. For women, in the same age group its 39.6 veterans and 3.4 for civilians. Why? Why are these numbers so high and so staggering? Most researchers point to the fact of the high stress that comes from going through a traumatic experience such as divorce.
Generally for men there really aren't many outlets to be able to talk about these issues, and those that are out there do not get much exposure. The reason being is that there is a stigma on men that when it comes to fidelity in a relationship, but studies show that in the same age group, 18-29 women are slightly more unfaithful then men. Now men generally still do cheat more, but there are plenty of men out there that are faithful, who love their families more than anything, and are great dads. To prove that, there was an article just released on how much daughters truly need their dad's, and how their entire life can be affected by their relationship with their dad.
The stressors that come from a divorce can become overwhelming for some and may resort to feel that there is only one way out. Men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women who divorce, due to the added burdens placed on men because of divorce. Spousal support, child support, lawyer fees, court fees, and not to mention having to deal with their own everyday expenses. Not only that, some men go from seeing their children every day, to just two weekends a month.
For some men, that is not only devastating, but so traumatic that they can't even think about how life would be like after the smoke clears. In March of this year, an airman based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state murdered his family just before calling 911 and turning the gun on himself. The reason? He was despondent after finding out recently that his wife was divorcing him, and was being treated for depression related issues.
Anther case of this was found when an entrepreneur shot and killed himself at a shooting range over pictures that were posted online of his model wife, who was seen cozying up to a famous celebrity in a club a few weeks before. The reason? The couple had broken up and were in the middle of a divorce and he was having financial issues, and had a history of depression.
Just yesterday, a man killed his young son, ex-wife, and current wife, before committing suicide because of a custody dispute that was over three years old and was causing him financial trouble and hurting his marriage. He desperately had cried out for help, but couldn't find the support and help he needed. Why am I so passionate about this? Because I was at that point where these men were, but by divine intervention, my life was saved.
We as men have to help each other and break this stigma that is taking too many lives unnecessarily. In the military we are taught to compartmentalize and focus at the task at hand, because lives depend on it. In my career, I was a crew chief on F-16 fighters, if I didn't inspect the jet properly in combat or peacetime, someone might not come home. I couldn't be distracted by the outside influences of my life, which caused me to suppress it, thus leading to anxiety and depression.
We can change that! First find a support group among your closest friends. Someone who you can truly trust and has your back. The most important thing for a man is to know that their bro has their back and is not going to use it against them during this most vulnerable time. Seek out a therapist to create an outlet if you don't have anyone you can trust, and before being prescribed any medication, if that isn't necessary at this point, try and do natural remedies. Exercise, diet, if you don't have one, find a hobby, anything to take your mind off the stressors and provide some much needed relief.
If you have to be prescribed any medication do so with caution and follow your doctors directions according to the letter. Do not deviate from that, because it can cause more harm than good, but ask the question about how long after treatment do you have to be on those medications. Find a church that you can regularly attend, having a feeling of belonging is why most of us joined and love to serve in the first place. Building a foundation of faith is important to being able to cope with the stress, and knowing you can turn to Christ without fear of rejection helps a great deal. That way you have a separate outlet from work, especially if work isn't the most calm environment.
I myself help men deal with these problems, and if you want to know more, visit my website or email me directly, [email protected] The stigma of mental illness is not a joke, and more and more people are becoming diagnosed with it because of the turmoils of the world around them. As men in the military and veterans, we share a common bond, no matter what branch. We share the same love of country, and there shouldn't be any reason why we can't look out for our bros.
Keep an eye out for any change in behavior, sleep patterns, diet, things that will make you ask the question, "Is there something wrong?". When in doubt, don't leave things to chance, because you might just save a life, or you just might be that guy that needs their life saved. This isn't something that will be eradicated, but it's something we can combat, and win!