“It’s an epidemic.”

Christmas was yesterday.  Personally, I spent the day traveling around Ohio to spend time with family (both mine and my girlfriend’s).  While it was somewhat exhausting going to four different Christmases, the memories were priceless.  For whatever reason, the holidays always make me appreciate being around family just a little more.  Maybe it is the memories of my childhood, and the excitement built up for months waiting for Christmas to come, or maybe is the fact that as I get older, I cherish the moments with those closest to me much more.

With that being said, one of the best gifts I received was from my mother… and it wasn’t anything she purchased.  It was a Newsweek article that she shared with me, titled A New Theory of PTSD and Veterans: Moral Injury by Tony Dokoupil.  It is an excellent article dealing with PTSD (causes, diagnosis, and treatment) and the frighteningly high suicide rate of veterans.  From the article:

…But despite three decades of research and billions of dollars in government funding, America’s servicemen and -women are not getting better. They are getting worse. Self-harm is now the leading cause of death for members of the Army, which has seen its suicide rate double since 2004, peaking this past summer with 38 in July alone. But the risk to discharged veterans may be even greater. Every month nearly 1,000 of them attempt to take their own lives. That’s more than three attempts every 90 minutes, at least one of them successful. Every time the credits roll in a movie, or the postgame show begins, another veteran is dead. “It’s an epidemic,” Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta admitted to Congress this summer. “Something is wrong.”

Reading that paragraph alone made my stomach turn.  Think about that… almost 1,000 veterans attempt to take their own life every month.  What?!?  That number is staggering.  Something is definitely wrong.  Clearly, we, as a society, are failing these men and women.  There is no need for finger pointing at who is to blame.  We don’t have time for it.  We simply need to recognize that more needs to be done.  And it needs to happen NOW.  We are losing these leaders daily.

Grass roots efforts, much like our Ascents of Honor project, may help to fill a void.  Is it an end all solution? Absolutely not.  But, I strongly believe these types of efforts can have a powerful impact and may be one of the missing pieces to the puzzle.  It is just one small piece, though.

Likely, each veteran looking for help will require a unique solution.  This is where we need to put on our creative thinking caps.  This is where the community/nation, as a whole, can solve this epidemic.

During this holiday season, while you are spending time with the ones you love, think about what it is YOU can offer.  What is in your toolbox?  Who do you know that you could help connect with someone?  It may seem like an insignificant action, but it may save a veteran’s life.

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