Military personnel are highly reluctant to ask for help when they are depressed because they do not want to be seen as weak. But untreated depression is the number one cause for suicide, so those who are depressed and do not seek help are at risk for suicide. So what can be done?
Clearly, all personnel need to receive suicide prevention training - and that is happening, but beyond that, personnel need to get to know each other so they will be more likely to spot someone who is depressed or suicidal and thus make sure that the person receives help. Again, please remember that untreated depression is the number one cause for suicide.
Air Force Captain Yvonne Levardi, who lost a friend from college to suicide, concisely and accurately summed up the importantance of getting to know fellow personnel when she said the following:
"We can go to seminars and read brochures forever, but the bottom line is we won't know if someone is considering suicide unless we truly get to know that person.
"For peers, if you have new [personnel] come into your office, befriend them and introduce them around so they can make friends. Remember we're part of the [military] and need to take care of each other, especially at a first duty station. We all know it's a bit scary; you're unsure of yourself and your job skills, and you don't know anyone. Help that person like you were helped, or like you would want to be helped.
"If you are a supervisor, get to know your people and apply leadership by walking around. Do any of your subordinates have financial or marital problems? Is your single troop lonely? Do you see changes in someone's work patterns, actions or personality? Knowing your folks can help you see their potential dark times and head them off with activities, someone to talk to or professional help -- the chaplains, life skills specialists, family support center staff, first sergeant or other support services. Your people -- your team -- are your responsibility.
"For your personal friends, be there. Make time to strengthen those relationships, because some of them might not have the same resources or strength of will as you. If that is the case, know them well enough that you can see the warning signs and be strong enough to ask if they are thinking about hurting themselves -- and tell someone else if they are.
"The best suicide-prevention program in the world won't work unless we know our people and our friends. Let's work to be there for our [military] family."
Well said, Captain Levardi.
Captain Levardi not only lost a friend to suicide, but another friend confided in her that she was suicidal. The friend told Captain Levardi not to tell anyone. Wisely, Captain Levardi did tell others because she knew that her friend needed help. And although her friend was mad at first, she later thanked her. Suicide can never be a secret. Never. Please click below for an important article on suicide and secrets:
Suicide Can Never be a Secret
Being in the military can be very stressful, and thus all military personnel are at a high risk for depression. Know the symptoms of depression so you can spot them in yourself and others. Please read the following article to learn about the symptoms of depression:
Depression and Suicide
And all military personnel should know the warning signs for suicide. Please read the following article to learn about suicide warning signs:
Suicide Warning Signs
And any military personnel that want to supplement their current suicide prevention program with the FREE Suicide.org suicide prevention program, please do so. The program is free, and you can access it by clicking below:
Free Suicide Prevention Program
Suicide.org also offers a wealth of information that will allow you to educate yourself about suicide, so please go through as much of the site as possible.
If you have no knowledge about suicide and depression, you will not be able to help anyone. Please educate yourself, and please help educate others.
If you do not believe that your military suicide prevention program is as comprehensive as it should be, then please talk with your supervisor and raise your concerns. And remember that any of the pages from Suicide.org can be used in any suicide prevention program that you implement as long as you follow the directions at the bottom of the pages for reprints. (All the pages of Suicide.org have information for free reprints.)
So after you become knowledgeable about depression and suicide, please reach out for help when you need it. Many people will encourage others to reach out for help, but will not get help for themselves. Please do not be stubborn. Remember that being in the military is highly stressful and that you are thus at a high risk for depression.
If you do become depressed, please make appointments with a doctor and a therapist so you may be evaluated. Sometimes depression is caused by a physical problem, such as a thyroid problem, so a thorough examination by a medical doctor is imperative.
And please see a therapist. Depression needs to be treated. Period. It is an illness, and just like ALL illnesses, it needs treatment. Do not think that you can treat depression by yourself -- that is like trying to treat a broken leg by yourself. And if you need antidepressants, you should take them, because sometimes that is what is required for a brain chemical imbalance to be corrected.
So take care of yourself first. Make sure that you get help when you need it, and never, ever try to treat depression by yourself.
And if you are ever suicidal, you have an EMERGENCY that requires immediate attention. Call an emergency number, call a friend, or go to a local hospital.
And make sure that you get to know the people who you are serving with. Do more than say hello. Open up to others, and they will open up to you. Ask your military friends how they are doing and let them know that they can come to you if they ever have a problem or are feeling down. Always make yourself available to others.
Do not let any person be an island. Include others in conversations and activities. Reach out. And when someone does have a serious problem or becomes depressed, make sure that he or she gets help.
And if a military friend becomes suicidal, please use the following article as a guide for how to help the person:
How to Help a Suicidal Person
And remember to ALWAYS take suicidal comments seriously. Always.
And also remember that if you are serving honorably in the military, you are a hero.
Thank you for serving.
Take care of yourself.
And take care of others in the military family.