Suicide! I had no idea that she was in so much pain. I cannot believe she is gone and left her family. I cannot believe she could not find help. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in America. The overall rate of suicide among Veterans is higher than the national average. Women Veterans experience suicide at a higher rate with a 2.2 percentage shown by 2017 data.
As a Veteran, I am not surprised that the numbers are higher among women Veterans. I experienced thoughts of helplessness. I wore my silent screams as an armor of protection. Did not want anyone to know that I was hurting inside. I eventually got help after my co-worker intervened.
So many women Veterans may be bearing the armor of silent screams like me fearing to appear weak. To my military sisters, we are no longer on a road march in full gear-as this is not a test for life endurance. Take off the armor now and allow our family, friends, and the community to reach out to us.
Then she said:
Suicide has been a repeat in my life. It began at Fort Sill, Oklahoma when I found the suicide note of my fellow soldier. Suicide showed up in Panama, and again in Temple, Texas near Fort Hood. In Alaska, there were many suicides. Alaska has the third highest suicide rate in the United States.
Several years ago, I was experiencing a difficult work life. My silent screams were too much for me to bare. While I felt feelings of hopelessness and brokenness within, I knew suicide was not the answer. I sought help for the screams that were getting louder and louder.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is committed to reducing Veteran suicide to 20% by 2025. This fact sheet summarizes what is known about suicide among women Veterans. VA needs the community help in reaching at-risk Veterans.
On July 7, 2020, the White House and VA launched “REACH” a national public health campaign aimed at encouraging Americans to play a critical role in preventing suicide. As a nation, we can end the negative stigma about suicide and start a conversation to encourage everyone to recognize the warning signs and seek help. In working together, we can save lives.
Note: If you or someone you know is considering suicide, you ae not alone. Please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for confidential support 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255. Veterans and Servicemembers, including National Guard and Reserve, should call the 1-800 number and press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line, chat online at www.veteranscrisisline.net/get-help/chat or text 838255. Losing One Veteran to Suicide is Too Many. Stop the Silent Screams.
June Halstead-Cox, U.S. Army Veteran, Veterans Health Administration (VHA), West Palm Beach VA Medical Center, Florida.
Zorina Pritchett, U.S. Army Veteran, Retired Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) Employee, Washington D.C.