Please note: This blog discusses the reality of suicide from the perspective of a military medic. We believe honesty is key in challenging stigma, especially for those in service, but read with caution if you think you might be sensitive to such descriptions and discussions.
When I was only a child, I received a toy doctor kit. It was then that I knew I was meant to help others, which later led me to join the military as a medic.
A year-long military deployment changes everyone. No matter how small the change may be, there will be something different. You may not always be able to see it, but certainly someone will notice. Whether you are the one deployed or it’s your wife, husband, child, friend, parent, brother, or sister, it will result in change, and not always the good kind. Thankfully, reading TWLOHA’s mission statement—something in which I believe wholeheartedly, with the utmost faith— kept me going in my times of need during my deployment.
After twelve long, hard months as a medic in Afghanistan, it was my time to return home. Finally, at last, the goal had been reached: I was on my way home. Little did I know, I was about to step into a much different type of battlefield. I never knew how unprepared I was for what was about to happen to me.
Ten days after returning, I was sitting in my aid station, getting ready to go on a much-needed two-week leave, when I heard something. I stopped for a second, thinking it was a gunshot; I must have still been in a battlefield mindset, but certainly, it couldn’t be … The front door opened, and I heard a soldier cry for help. I ran out the door and into the Behavior Health Clinic, the next building over, where I was guided to the relaxation room. There was a soldier lying on the ground … I can still remember the smell of the gunpowder in the room. It is something I will never forget.
From that day on, I became someone different, someone with a mission. A mission much larger than myself. I was going to help and do my part to prevent depression and suicide.
After deploying, I had numerous friends die by suicide, attempt suicide, engage in extremely reckless behavior, or even become so depressed as to starve themselves into the hospital. It pains me to think about all of them—especially the ones who are no longer around, including one of my closest friends. But I tried to be proactive and take classes on signs of depressions and suicide intervention. I even started a program to help others become more aware and reach out to these people. To take it a step further, I sought to help all of those around me, no matter their job or rank, to steer clear of perpetuating the stigma of mental and behavioral health.
While all of these things are beneficial in the long run, what helped most was something very simple: listening. (Tweet This)
On a few different occasions, I found myself with someone who needed help. They were crying out desperately, and no one could hear them. I sat for hours one-on-one with some, talking and listening. I quoted my favorite sentences of TWLOHA’s mission statement: “The vision is hope, and hope is real. You are not alone, and this is not the end of your story.”
It most definitely was not the end of their story, and I believe they realized it in that moment. Currently, these same individuals are living life to the fullest, after having been in the dark for so long and denying themselves the professional care they so desperately needed.
I am realizing there are things to hold onto around us everywhere. Literally, everywhere. We just need to find them and grab on tight. Most importantly, when others cannot find something to hold onto—a reason to keep going, a reason to stop, a reason to put down the bottle—we can reach out and be their anchor in that moment. Help guide them to where they need to be, to love and be loved. To live and say they really lived.
It does not take someone in the medical field or on the battlefield to help others. We can all do something. We can all affect the change. It doesn’t matter if it is a military member, friend, relative, co-worker, or even a stranger at the mall. It doesn’t matter how rich, how poor, how popular, how unpopular, how one speaks, how one dresses. Everyone deserves life abundantly, and it should be our goal to ensure everyone has that opportunity.
Quietly listen and affect the change.
TWLOHA partners with USA Cares to support their Warrior Treatment Today program, which pays essential household bills while the service member/veteran is attending residential treatment through Veteran Affairs. You can help by purchasing our USA Cares Title shirt here.