Many people consider Christmas time the best time of the year.
There are songs to be sung, friends to hang with, and family members to gather around.
But, for some, Christmas time and other holidays are hard.
So hard that they consider ending their lives.
I recently discussed this with my friend Dan Dwyer. He’s retired military and has seen the depression and despair the holidays can bring.
He reminded me that Christmas time isn’t always happy. This season can be the hardest for those coming back from service and those who have retired from active duty.
As friends, there are certain stressors we need to be aware of.
These stressors include:
- Monetary struggles
- Family relationship trials
- Job losses
Struggles in finances, career, and family are a major contributor to increased suicide rates of service members during the holiday season. As the stress of these issues begin to pile up, they feel lost and that they have nowhere to go.
When you see a service member or veteran that you know talking about:
- Giving away all of their possessions
- Thoughts of suicide
- Withdrawing for those they care for
- Major financial problems
You need to take notice. These are warning signs that there may be trouble ahead.
And that’s where you and I come in. We can stand side-by-side with our loved ones as they return from the battlefield or training. We can help them understand that they are not alone. And we can help them realize they are loved.
If you believe a service member you know is having suicidal thoughts, you can help them. When interacting with them, remember:
- Don’t minimize their problems: They’re going through a difficult time and they don’t need to hear that it’s not a big deal.
- Don’t over-react to the problem: Yes, the problems are real. They’re also not the end of the world. Don’t make their issues into a bigger deal than they are, but don’t minimize those issues either.
- Admit to some of your own mental health problems and what you did to get help: Sometimes our servicemen are scared to get help because of the stigma behind getting mental health treatment. When we begin to normalize treatment, you open up the door to them getting help.
- Offer assistance: Sometimes veterans don’t know where to get help. Step up and share ways they can get treatment or help. Offer to take them to the local VA or to a mental health professional.
In 2014, veteran suicides averaged 20 per day. That’s 7,300 per year. A staggering number.
Our men in uniform have given us the freedom to live our lives. We need to be willing to help them return to civilian life.
If you notice one of them struggling, help them get help.
Resources: There are resources out there for those struggling with mental health issues. Keep the following information handy in case you need to contact someone for help:
Veterans Crisis Line – 1-800-273-8255 Press 1
Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1-800-273-8255
Be There Peer Support – 844-357-PEER (7337)
If you’d like to listen to the full chat Dan Dwyer and I had, you can listen in at the Answers From Leadership podcast.
Read Joe Lalonde every week here on The Good Men Project!