This Veterans Day, with the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and incredibly difficult transitions following the 20 year war – it is essential that we take the time to honor and support those who have served, and continue to serve our country.
This includes understanding, exploring, and furthering the conversation about mental health in the Veteran community. A stark reality lies in the fact that Veterans are more than two times as likely as civilian counterparts to die by suicide. Furthermore, Veterans living in rural areas throughout the country are at even heightened risk. While the causes are many, the important fact is that this cannot be ignored.
To zoom in on Colorado, we lost 217 Veterans in 2019, which reflects a 25 percent increase from 2018 culminating in an all time high. While there are over 600 registered Veteran organizations throughout the state, connecting Veterans with the right support at the right time is where we often miss the mark. We have to adjust our mindset from reactionary to proactivity. Rather than waiting until a Veteran is experiencing a crisis, we have to find ways to connect them with the support they need to thrive in life post-service. We all can play a role in this – from expressing gratitude, to reaching out to offer support, to finding ways to connect Veterans to Veteran-serving organizations. While an important first step is to raise awareness of the issue, it’s time we move towards taking action.
One example is Operation Veteran Strong, a website that supports Veterans, their families, and community members in navigating the many online, as well as brick-and-mortar Veteran serving organizations in the state of Colorado.
It’s essential to prioritize finding innovative ways to support our Veterans, approaching the challenge with multidisciplinary teams to move beyond the confines of traditional thinking. This Veterans Day, find a way to connect with and thank a service member in your community. After all, expressing gratitude is shown to have just as much positive impact on your well-being as meditation.
If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of harming themselves or someone else call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK, our crisis line at 1-844-493-8255, 9-11, or go to your nearest emergency room.