I think that most of us have read or heard through the media about suicides among our nation’s military. Even though there are less suicides recorded this year among members of the Armed Forces, our National Guard units have experienced a rise in suicides among its members this past year. One suicide among us is one too many!
So what is going on? From my perspective as a civilian who works with persons every day who are depressed, I think that because of the nature of their roles as men and women committed to putting their lives on the line, especially combat, this fact in itself is enough to present a person with stress and the many resultant symptoms of depression. I do know that stressful life events, and the thinking about them, can grind us down psychologically, physically and psychically.
Depression must be taken seriously! Telling a person depressed to ” snap out of it.” is not helpful at all. This basically invalidates my own feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. I can’t just turn my depression on or off like a faucet.
I just hope that those with the capacity to help our soldiers who are depressed can help all our soldiers to be better prepared by making available support groups designed specifically for men and women depressed. As one top military put it, he thinks that just by making available someone to talk to–and telling them that it is “ok, to admit feeling helpless about circumstances in one’s life and that you are spiraling down into an abyss and can’t climb out.” Most person depressed feel especially out of control, I also think that men in our culture, because of needing to be strong and brave, find it most difficult to share these deep emotions of feeling helpless plus dealing with something that can’t just be willed away. Shame and guilt are real obstacles to getting help. Depression not only paralyzes our wills but makes moving out of our isolating behavior just that much more difficult.
It would be my recommendation that the military continue its efforts in establishing support groups which deal specifically with issues of depression and suicidal thinking and behavior. Would the military consider using material modeled after the 12 steps off AA and which has been established as a remedy, since 1985, not only for the military but for all who are looking for support. . Depression is a global problem. We feel that Depressed Anonymous is such a therapeutic approach and one which our military deserve. And as a nation we need to “pass muster” and give our troops the best that we have to give.