Death is a time of transition, but for some of us, it is a form of escape. While many of us dream of a peaceful paradise with all our loved ones awaiting happily for us, some of us hope that death ends all existence into a deep sleep without dreams.
Our past often haunts us more than our ghostly future. For some, it might be a bad credit decision, but there are people out there suffering from traumatic events, reliving it on a day to day adventure, an experience from which they cannot escape because the emotions play in their heads all day and the visual memory keeps them up at night.
They don’t get much empathy from people. You tell someone you have PTSD, you might as well just said you have a rare disease from a country nobody has ever heard of. They don’t change for you. They don’t understand for you. They don’t let things slide a little for you. They surely have no idea that when they are talking to you, that you might be reliving something from that trauma at that very moment or moments before. They don’t understand PTSD at all to understand your daily struggle. They just pass it off, in one ear and out the other, as if you had just proclaimed you have a zit. Most people just simply don’t care.
For the record, most victims of PTSD and Depression state that being surrounded by compassion and support helps them more than criticism and judgment. Do us a solid, don’t be a dick to people with PTSD.
22 Vets Commit Suicide Every Day
The United States Department of Veteran Affairs released a study that says on average, 22 vets commit suicide every day. At this point, we speculate the top causes to be head injury or untreated depression or PTSD.
If you are a decent person of average intelligence, you may be thinking the same things I’m thinking. That’s ridiculous. Our soldiers deserve better. If you’re too intelligent for your own good, you might question the legitimacy of the statistics and use that to excuse the situation.
But I can tell you, no matter what the statistics say, there is a problem. I’m a military veteran, one of the few females you will ever meet who served. I see it. I’ve seen military buddies come home from a deployment and religiously watch videos of the war aching to return to it. I’ve seen how war breaks our men.
I just got to see it again in the last week as friends and friends-of-friends post condolences and memories to their Facebook.
When I first saw pictures of this man on my Facebook, I was thinking, “Someone’s sharing pictures of a random hottie model.” Then I soon realized (by reading the description, always read the photo’s description) he was the brother of one of my classmates from high school, which totally explains why he’s so good looking (it’s a good looking family).
Sgt. 1st Class Tyler Westbrook received the Promise Scholarship, graduated West Virginia University with honors, joined the Army and then joined the Special Forces Green Beret, and learned Russian (I’m sorry, but that’s not an easy language and worthy of mentioning). On August 28, 2015, Tyler became one of an estimated 22 US Veterans who take their lives on any given day.
This guy, Tyler, comes from a family of well-loved, good-looking people. Reading his obituary, he definitely had his shit together better than most people I know. You just would never think someone like him would be one of those hoping for death to be the ultimate rest and escape from something. In fact, I would rather believe it wasn’t suicide. I would rather believe he saw something too important while serving and an assassin from the CIA made it look like a suicide. I know that’s not true though, like an assassin could handle a Green Beret.
The fact is I’ll never know the details of this death. Nobody but God knows the battles he faced within himself. But I can tell you his family supports the Mission 22, and urges you to purchase a 22 Vets T-shirt to support the cause. I can also tell you that the support from his community has me proud to hail Williamstown as a hometown, and I have never felt that pride before (it really is a Stepford community in every creepy way imaginable).
I do know that our military men may be victorious from war, but they often come home with all kinds of scars. I have seen the invisible scars. I know they are there. They aren’t pretty. Not at all. They aren’t the kind you show off at a bar to prove your manhood. They are often hidden well, and honestly, I think just about every soldier suffering from PTSD would have rather gotten an incurable STD instead (not in addition to).
No matter what I know, the world is soon discovering veteran suicide rates are much higher than civilian suicide rates, hence the Mission 22.
Some speculate that a culture of self-reliance keeps these soldiers from seeking the medical attention they need, but I can tell you what contributes to that. Service before Self. Once you show the military you are broken, they treat you different. They don’t want you in. They don’t want you.
I have endured my veteran benefits to attest that we need to improve the VA program.
Vets using their GI Bill are treated like it’s not their money they earned but like they are receiving a grant with a lot more red tape, stipulations, requirements, and difficulty obtaining. When I went back to school with my GI Bill, the financial aid guy rolled his eyes when I said, “GI Bill” because it’s more work than any other form of financial aid.
The healthcare is like everything else in the military, sub par designed to stick to a smaller budget than it needs, though I will say VA hospital care is a step up from military clinic care, like they still prescribe 800 mg of ibuprofen for everything, but they will throw in prescriptions for meds you actually need. But you don’t get to set your own appointments. They mail you your appointment, and at best, you are looking at a month to get in. That’s after filling out a lot of paperwork and waiting 6 months to get into the system.
The back log to receive disability compensation is twice (at times 3 times) the speed of social security disability, and they are quick to deny claims over things like not going to a shrink enough to treat the issue to prove it is interfering with the day, or maybe a question in the legitimacy of the trauma. They also require, in order to confirm the diagnosis, that you see their doctors (the same ones offering sub par healthcare) because civilian doctors are not credible enough to diagnose apparently, which costs us more money and time for something unnecessary.
You don’t get to always pick your doctor, and we know the importance of mental health care is that a patient find the right doctor for them. There is no therapy for any mental disorder with a doctor you don’t trust.
All insurance companies make it difficult to find the right doctor for your mental health, and I have known people who pay cash despite their insurance coverage just to get the right doctor. But military pay doesn’t exactly provide you the savings you would need for such an expense, and military veteran unemployment rates are typically higher than civilians in the last decade, disabled veterans being even higher. I knew a manager who refused to hire vets in fear they’d either get called back to duty and the law requires their job wait on them, and in fear they might go Rambo on everyone (I removed her Support Troops magnet from her car).
In addition, once you start a pharmacotherapy regiment, it’s bad if you miss a pill or two, and a lot of these prescriptions are controlled substances where you have to obtain a paper script (as opposed to having it called in), and most doctors are trying to make money, meaning they don’t want to prescribe meds for longer than the next appointment, so if you miss an appointment, which is very common with PTSD on account it’s easy to lose track of time and remember things, you are screwed.
The fact of the matter is our military soldiers need to know we support them. When they are overseas, it is our cards, free cups of coffee, and care packages that gives them hope and a reminder of who they are fighting for. When they get home, they still need our support. They need our support at that point more than they ever needed our care packages while deployed.
If you would like to support your veterans:
- Vote for veteran Care. Make it matter enough for politicians’ PR Firms to want to have their guy volunteer at a VA hospital for a PR stunt. Make it matter enough for politicians to vote FOR veterans.
- Buy one of these T-Shirts
- Do Pushups
- Walk in this Walk
- If you don’t have kids, are a little crazy and not afraid to die, talk to homeless people and hitchhikers. You’ll be amazed at how many are vets, and most have a simple goal in mind (like purchase a bus ticket or hitchhike to see family). I’m not implying these vets are dangerous. Talking to strangers like this can be though, or it’s an urban legend. Hard to tell. Me and my kids, if we see a person standing with a sign and have the time and money, we get them a pizza, a pack of smokes, and 20 bucks.
- Become a Mental Health Advocate. You don’t have to get certified, but read up on some things, try to empathize with people, and promote mental health whenever possible. Our health care situation for mental health is not going to change until we, the people, make it change. An Army of One.
- Put together a care package for vets you know suffering from PTSD, Depression, or Head Injuries. What they really need is a supportive, compassionate friend, but also think of things that makes that person in particular feel safe that isn’t a weapon (and target all senses, include touch and smell). You can put in a good book, a good movie, relaxing music on CD (even if you burn one yourself and include good memory songs you shared with that person), stress balls, relaxing candle scents, yoga meditation things, a puppy (emotional support animals score high on the help a vet scale), guardian angel things, St. Michael Medals (you can also get that blessed by a priest, and highly encouraged because demons are attracted to wounded vets), a blessed shower head (every shower renews the body and soul that way, and I know it sounds silly, but you have no idea how therapeutic it is to shower in Holy Water), comfort foods, anything really just to show an appreciation and support.
- If you have a thick skin and can be kind no matter what, check out the 11Bravo Grunt Facebook Page. They post some controversial things like half naked women, but they are very supportive of each other constantly raising money for some cause: getting weapons and body armor and MRE’s to Sgts with no funding overseas for such things, helping veterans so they don’t become homeless or starve, helping with medical bills… You can also send them a picture of your breasts or bum for morale. The admins have frequently stayed up all night on the phone with a stranger to keep them from committing suicide. Just keep in mind they talk tough with profanity. They are not for the meek. Don’t argue with them (that’s for your own sake).
- Do you blog? Join the Mission 22 Movement and blog and share about this.
I just love this picture, as an Air Force vet…