• Jan 19, 2019
  • 12:53 PM

Message from the Director – September 2018, Let’s Talk about Suicide

Last month I was researching the lives veterans we were interring at the State Veterans Cemetery in Fernley.   Why? Because I think it is important to bring our unaccompanied veterans “to life;” to show that just because they were unaccompanied does not mean that they were not loved.  For this ceremony, I researched the life of “Margareta,” a WWII veteran who joined the Women’s Army Corps in 1942.  What I discovered in my research was a complete shock.  For you see, Margareta ended her life in 1982; while traveling on a train she calmly removed her glasses, set them down, and flung herself out of a window onto the tracks.  Because of the attention being paid to veteran suicide in the past few years, I really had not expected, or considered, that the same factors that lead to suicide today have likely always affected some veterans.

After the memorial ceremony, I placed my hand on the beautiful wooden container containing Margareta’s ashes and thought, “I wish I could have been there for you.”  It seemed such a tragic waste; her life snuffed out years before her time.  Since then, I have been thinking about that wish.  How many people do I interact with, pass by, or nod to every day that may need help?  And what about the people I know that have already died by suicide—what could I have done differently that might have helped?  It is too late to help Margareta, but it is not too late to help others struggling with personal demons.

What can you do?  Here are some ideas:

  1. Put the National Crisis Line telephone number in your phone. Right now.  Pull out your phone and enter this number:  1-800-273-8255.
  2. Take the free S.A.V.E. training offered by the PsychArmor Institute. This 25-minute course can help you support a veteran struggling with thoughts of suicide.  The link is:  https://psycharmor.org/courses/s-a-v-e/
  3. Become a Nevada Veterans Advocate and help provide veterans and their families’ information about resources and benefits that can enrich their lives. While half of all veteran suicides result from mental health illnesses, the other half are attributed to stress associated with life (relationships, finances, illness, grief, etc.).  NVA’s can help navigate veterans to these needed resources.  Learn more, go to: http://veterans.nv.gov/community/veterans-advocacy/ 
  4. If you see a person who is struggling, grab them and go get a cup of coffee. Ask if they are OK.  Listen to them…really listen.  Make sure they know that you hear  Listen and allow the veteran to talk in a non-judgmental atmosphere.  A recent survey of veterans who attempted suicide revealed on common factor:  they felt like no one heard them.  Provide the veteran with reassurance that help is available and that you can and will help them connect with the services needed to include the telephone number to the crisis line: 1-800-273-8255. Also, follow up with them later, encouraging them to make that call.

In this “Special Edition” that highlights Suicide Prevention, please read more under Health and Wellness about what is being done to prevent suicide and what you can do to help others.

In closing, I did not share Margareta’s story during the unaccompanied ceremony because I did not want her tragic ending to overshadow the lives of the other veterans being honored.  I share her story today because it needs to be told.  I tell it in hopes that you might feel better prepared to help a veteran who needs that help.  While most veterans will never need this help, we can be there for those that do.    Let’s honor Margareta for her service—but also, in her name, join the fight to end veteran suicide.