A different war: Military families do battle with suicide
His PTSD symptoms were aggravated by the stress of moving to Iowa, starting a new job, being away from his two kids and receiving divorce papers in the mail. Adam could sleep only about two hours a night because he was waking up in cold sweats after having nightmares that were "exponentially worse" than what he actually saw in Iraq.
One horrendous night, he said, he "cracked." He woke up after passing out and drove to the VA hopsital and received help.
The solution: He realized he had something new to fight for.
"I fought for my country. I fought for what I believed was right, and I basically changed my game plan," Adam said. "I fought for my kids and I still fight for my kids. I found a new war."
Adam said he is remarried to a woman who has been his "rock," and he puts his focus on his four children — 11, 10, 6 and 6 months.
War is people being as sane as they can in an insane situation, said Blair of the VA, who called it a “sacred privilege” to help veterans and others in the emergency room or through the crisis line.
A host of factors can contribute to a person considering suicide: substance abuse, health issues, a history of abuse, loneliness, relationship issues, worthlessness, mood instability, anger, anxiety, homelessness, unemployment, legal issues, financial stress and poor support.
When these things happen, people's emotions and feelings are depressed. They are in a “dark place” and don’t see other options.
“Generally the only emotion that can come out is anger, and, usually, it’s anger toward themselves or others,” Blair said. “And so, because of limited options somebody has, they really do want somebody to step in and help take charge of their life. People who attempt suicide or complete suicide generally do not want to die. Suicide is a permanent solution to a problem that’s generally short-term.”
Individuals and their loved ones can look for warning signs: people thinking about hurting themselves, preoccupation with death, and self-destructive or risky behavior, particularly if it involves weapons, drugs or alcohol.
Factors that can help prevent suicide include positive social support, spirituality, family responsibility, life satisfaction, engagement in treatment, positive coping skills and children in the home.
“Always ask the question,” Blair said. “It’s never wrong to ask if they’re suicidal. It won’t put that idea in their head.”
Blair also said eliminating secrecy and attending the VA are both big protective factors.
Said Adam: "You’re always going to have a war inside, but that doesn’t mean you have to fight your battles alone."
How to get help
Veterans and their family members needing help can call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-82551-800-273-8255 and press 1, send a text to 838255 or chat online at veteranscrisisline.net.
Anyone struggling with substance abuse, mental illness or any crisis can call a county crisis hotline, the Statewide CrisisLine at 801-587-3000 and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). People in crisis can also call 911 or go to an emergency room.
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