Five Ways To Help Prevent Veteran Suicide
Everyone should get involved in saving veterans' lives.
It’s a tragedy: Every day, 22 U.S. veterans take their own lives – a needless loss of 8,000 service members a year.
Too many veterans don’t get the help they need, but experts say everyone should get involved to help save a veteran’s life.
Returning veterans may experience divorce, joblessness, homelessness and hopelessness.
The often-devastating effects of mild to moderate traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and post-traumatic stress (PTS), plus the loss of their military community support, can cause a downward spiral.
Symptoms of mTBI include headaches and problems with balance, sleep, vision and memory. Emotional signs include depression and anxiety. But today’s treatment approaches and therapeutic technologies offer hope for veterans feeling overwhelming physical and emotional pain from these invisible wounds of war.
What You Can Do
1. Be observant about behavior changes. For many veterans, the physical symptoms of mTBI are not obvious. Be on the lookout for loss of interest in meaningful activities, personality changes, social isolation and substance abuse.
2. Reach out and spend time together. Let a veteran know he or she is not alone. Meet for coffee or go for a walk. Listen and encourage them to seek help.
The SHARE Military Initiative at Shepherd Center has transformed the lives of more than 550 veterans and their families through an innovative program – with zero suicides. The program provides up to 12 weeks of intensive rehabilitation at no cost to the veteran. Therapy focuses on mild to moderate brain injury and psychological concerns of those who served in the U.S. military since September 11, 2001. Treatment plans are customized for each veteran’s needs. The program is open to all post-9/11 veterans, including those with other than honorable discharges.
Because of its intensive and comprehensive therapy, rehabilitation and life coaching, SHARE has become a model for centers nationwide. Experts in working with veterans provide medical consultation, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech and cognitive therapy, recreation therapy, case management, neuropsychology, chaplaincy and counseling.
4. Volunteer or donate to organizations battling the epidemic of veteran suicide.
5. Support fundraisers and events, such as the Shepherd’s Men Run. Annually, a team of committed volunteers run seven days of half marathons in multiple states wearing 22-pound flak jackets—to increase awareness of treatment options and suicide prevention for veterans. Shepherd’s Men have raised millions for this heartfelt mission.
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 900 inpatients, 575 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year.