How One Phone Call Can Save A Life

If a veteran or service member you know is showing signs of crisis — such as hopelessness, anxiety, or withdrawal — one conversation can open the door to support.
Photo by Cpl. Sarah Cherry

A lot of people cannot comprehend why someone would take his or her own life. In the case of service members, the stress of war, being away from family and friends, traumatic brain injury from combat, and transitioning out of the military, among other things, can be overwhelming to young veterans returning from the combat zone. Indeed, according to data released by the Department of Veterans Affairs earlier this year, male veterans under the age of 30 saw a 44% increase in suicide rates from 2009 to 2011.

September is Suicide Prevention Month, and today, Sept. 10, is World Suicide Prevention Day. Far too many young veterans between are committing suicide after returning home from Iraq or Afghanistan. Among all categories of veterans, suicides average 22 a day. Worldwide, an estimated one million people commit suicide every year.

The VA launched a campaign this month to generate awareness about the Veterans Crisis Line, a toll-free, confidential resource that connects veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring VA responders 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For veterans and family members going through a difficult time, one call, chat, or text can be a critical first step. It can mean the difference between life and death.

Dealing with post-traumatic stress and/or military sexual trauma can make service members more susceptible to anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses. It can be overwhelming especially for someone who feels like no one understands; that they don’t have anyone to talk to.

I have been in that situation before --- when the future looks uncertain or stressful events have happened to make me feel overwhelmed, which then only increases the anxiety. One particular evening, I found myself in a dark place with no idea what to do or where to turn. That’s when I remembered the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. I picked up the phone and called the number. A young woman came on the line and I told her I was feeling overwhelmed and anxious. While I was not exactly feeling suicidal, I talked to her for 45 minutes. I told her about all the stress building up in my life: financial problems from being unable to work, severe chronic pain a result of my time in the service, and a limited support system without someone I could really talk to. I was having severe anxiety and it was nice to have someone on the other end of the line willing to let me talk without judgement. I have always been one of those people who isolates myself after traumatic events, such as the horrible death of my mother.

After talking to the woman, I started feeling better and we both hung up. She said she would send a message to the Miami VA Mental Health Department letting them know I had called to talk to someone. The next day I heard from two counselors at the Miami VA who asked me if I needed anything and they said they would refer the message to the psychiatrist and psychologist assigned to me and that they did.

Anyone can have moments of darkness, angst, depression, but know that there are resources that provide help and support is the step first to recovery.

If you notice any signs of depression or suicidal tendencies in someone you love, or you are feeling them yourself, reach out. One small act can make a lifetime of difference.

In this June 16, 2018 photo, Taliban fighters greet residents in the Surkhroad district of Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan. (Associated Press/Rahmat Gul)

While the U.S. military wants to keep roughly 8,600 troops in Afghanistan, the Taliban's deputy leader has just made clear that his group wants all U.S. service members to leave the country as part of any peace agreement.

"The withdrawal of foreign forces has been our first and foremost demand," Sirajuddin Haqqani wrote in a story for the New York Times on Thursday.

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U.S. soldiers inspect the site where an Iranian missile hit at Ain al-Asad air base in Anbar province, Iraq January 13, 2020. (REUTERS/John Davison)

In the wee hours of Jan. 8, Tehran retaliated over the U.S. killing of Iran's most powerful general by bombarding the al-Asad air base in Iraq.

Among the 2,000 troops stationed there was U.S. Army Specialist Kimo Keltz, who recalls hearing a missile whistling through the sky as he lay on the deck of a guard tower. The explosion lifted his body - in full armor - an inch or two off the floor.

Keltz says he thought he had escaped with little more than a mild headache. Initial assessments around the base found no serious injuries or deaths from the attack. U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted, "All is well!"

The next day was different.

"My head kinda felt like I got hit with a truck," Keltz told Reuters in an interview from al-Asad air base in Iraq's western Anbar desert. "My stomach was grinding."

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A U.S. military vehicle runs a Russian armored truck off the road in Syria near the Turkish border town of Qamishli (Video screencap)

A video has emerged showing a U.S. military vehicle running a Russian armored truck off the road in Syria after it tried to pass an American convoy.

Questions still remain about the incident, to include when it occurred, though it appears to have taken place on a stretch of road near the Turkish border town of Qamishli, according to The War Zone.

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(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.

We are women veterans who have served in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. Our service – as aviators, ship drivers, intelligence analysts, engineers, professors, and diplomats — spans decades. We have served in times of peace and war, separated from our families and loved ones. We are proud of our accomplishments, particularly as many were earned while immersed in a military culture that often ignores and demeans women's contributions. We are veterans.

Yet we recognize that as we grew as leaders over time, we often failed to challenge or even question this culture. It took decades for us to recognize that our individual successes came despite this culture and the damage it caused us and the women who follow in our footsteps. The easier course has always been to tolerate insulting, discriminatory, and harmful behavior toward women veterans and service members and to cling to the idea that 'a few bad apples' do not reflect the attitudes of the whole.

Recent allegations that Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie allegedly sought to intentionally discredit a female veteran who reported a sexual assault at a VA medical center allow no such pretense.

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A cup of coffee during "tea time" discussions between the U.S. Air Force and Japanese Self-Defense Forces at Misawa Air Base, Japan, Feb. 14, 2018 (Air Force photo / Tech. Sgt. Benjamin W. Stratton)

Survival expert and former Special Air Service commando Edward "Bear" Grylls made meme history for drinking his own urine to survive his TV show, Man vs. Wild. But the United States Air Force did Bear one better recently, when an Alaska-based airman peed in an office coffee maker.

While the circumstances of the bladder-based brew remain a mystery, the incident was written up in a newsletter written by the legal office of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on February 13, a base spokesman confirmed to Task & Purpose.

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