22: That is the number of veterans that END their lives every day. That is 8,030 veterans that are no longer with us come December 31, 2014. Too many veterans are dying each year and we need to do better as a nation to battle this statistic. I, for one, almost became part of that statistic last year. I was lucky my wife somehow figured out something was not right because the VA did not help me. Instead, they kept me on a zip-lock bag of medications that I told them made me feel numb and zombie-like. The medications were the reason I was ready to take my own life. They said my medications were not the problem, I just needed to get used to the “new me”. I almost accepted their reasoning, and it would have killed me if I did.
The big problem is the stigma that goes with mental health problems. I just heard someone say the other day, “people who commit or attempt suicide are some of the weakest people.” No, we are not. Some of us have been in dark places for years and ultimately see no light at the end of the tunnel. We think the only way to feel better and alleviate the burden on our families is to end our own lives. In my mind, the stigma won’t ever leave until the whole country is educated about the mindsets of suicidal people.
We need to be more proactive in our treatments of depression and mental sickness. We need to be educated on the side effects of the medicines prescribed to us. I was guilty of taking whatever the VA prescribed me without question. It seemed like for the first 2 months, every time I turned around, more medications kept being added to battle the side effects of another. Or they would ask, “Are you still angry?” and I would say yes, so they would keep upping the dosage.
I ask you all to be a good friend and look for the red flags. If you wondering what some red flags may be, I would say listen to “Red Flags” by Soldier Hard. It is a great song that will educate those who don’t really know what to look for. Don’t be afraid to talk to your friend if he looks like he needs help – realize that a veteran who seems like he is going to hurt himself, wants and needs help whether or not he admits it. I can tell you I was afraid to admit I needed help because I felt it made me look weak.
From my personal experience, I felt lost in life because after retirement, I felt like I lost who I was. To me, I was BU2(SCW) Ferretti - Navy Seabee. I did not know how to be Corey Ferretti as a civilian. I also felt like I lost my mission in life and I could not easily get hired. When I finally did get hired, I had troubles adjusting to working there since it was so different than everything I knew. They were great employers, but I just walked out because I could not deal with my own life. I think if more veterans knew to focus on finding a new mission in life once they got out, it would help them so much. There are many veteran-focused groups out there, like Team Rubicon for example, who provide disaster relief. Find something that you love and find a way to make it your work. For me, horses saved my life. I am now apprenticing as a Farrier - I have a lot to learn, but I get to work with horses every day and they are my therapy.
I’m sure there are others on RallyPoint who wouldn’t mind sharing their stories in order to help those who might be in a bad place but don’t want to bring it up. If you’re in a bad place, I would be happy to talk more about my story if you have any questions. A question to other veterans: how have you found your new “life mission” after leaving service?
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