Soldiers and Military families call on VA to do more for Suicide Prevention Outreach
KWQC NBC 6 News
By Sarah Jones
Jan 04, 2019
Davenport, IA (KWQC) - The U.S. State Department says there is “no timeline for military forces to withdraw” from Syria. This comes after President Trump announced the withdrawal of US troops from both Syria and Afghanistan. Here at home, soldiers are calling on the Department of Veteran Affairs to do more to prevent members of these troops from becoming a statistic. According to the Department of Veteran Affairs every day, 20 soldiers die by suicide.
A recent report by the U-S Government Accountability Office says VA Health Care needs to do more when it comes to Suicide Prevention Media Outreach. It says when it comes to paid media outreach the Department of Veteran Affairs only spent $57,000 of the obligated $6.2 million for suicide prevention paid media. The GAO says there has been a limited effort by the VA in its suicide prevention outreach in both 2017 and 2018. And while many soldiers say the VA provides many benefits. They say suicide prevention is a life or death matter that needs to be given more attention. Especially in the years to come.
The type of hyper-alertness you need to survive during a deployment is something that's hard to explain for many soldiers. Sgt Brack served in Afghanistan and compares it to being a hypervigilant helicopter parent. He says one of the most challenging things post-deployment is letting go of that alertness.
"Even if you didn't see happy combat, and this was an area where I struggled when I came back. I definitely had a sense of hyper-alertness. ..farmers market people browse and shop from the guy that just came back can't browse and shop he’s going to recon every person he sees, it’s that persons mumbling, that person's sweating, you go into a heavily crowded area I mean I don’t want to go to the state fair, I’m much better about it now. It’s not the same easy task for someone who hasn't been put in that situation," says Sgt Brack.
But it's not just letting go of the hypervigilance. It's finding a place in civilian life. Something far more difficult than anyone could imagine. And one of the reasons he's concerned about their being a spike in suicide over the next few years.
“You have a lot of young guys coming back and I can say this because I’ve been there, they feel worthless because the combat skills they learned overseas don’t translate into jobs in civilian life,” says Sgt. Brack.
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A few years ago, there was a meeting of one of the groups I belonged to. A young member, Army veteran committed suicide. A woman I have known for years, stood up and declared, "22 veterans a day are committing suicide and I'm gonna do something about it."
I was sitting right there, after doing this work for over 3 decades. After I pulled the knife out of my back, I wanted to cry. Then I wanted to give up. If someone I knew had total disregard for everything I had done, there was no reason for me to keep doing it.
My soul was crushed! How can anyone take something this serious so lightly? How do they wake up one morning, read a headline and then dare to think that qualifies them to be the one to do anything other than make it all worse?
That is exactly what has been going on for far too long and now you have just heard what the results are. Well...part of them anyway.
They need real knowledge, especially when the stigma is still so strong, about what PTSD is and the fact they can take control of their lives again. They need to know that PTSD cannot be cured but it can be defeated. None of that will happen until the suicide awareness groups are actually pushed back to where they have pushed the healing awareness raisers offering hope instead of hype.
As for the VA not spending on raising awareness, they need to focus on prevention just like everyone else should be doing.