Suicide prevention – for all.

January 18, 2010 · Filed Under Gold Star Mom, Military Parents 

A friend of mine, who blogs at Gold Star Mom Speaks Out wrote this and graciously allowed me to post it here.

When the military talks out loud about suicides in the military, it’s a good thing. This week in Washington DC 1,000 people are attending a four-day Suicide Prevention Conference sponsored by the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration. Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki were among many military leaders and medical experts in attendance. The highest level of leadership and the array of experts should indicate that the military is looking for solutions to solve this terrible trending problem of suicides in the military.

I have attended numerous meetings discussing veterans issues where one of the topics is military suicides. I have always been amazed that a military representative always acknowledges military suicides as an pressing issue but cannot figure out why. I’m no expert, but let’s try this short list. Repeated deployments, shortened dwell times, or time at home, stop loss, PTSD. I could go on, but that’s a whole other story. So, I was glad to read that Admiral Mullen told the audience at the conference “I know at this point in time, there does not appear to be any scientific correlation between the number of deployments and those who are at risk, but I’m just hard-pressed to believe that’s not the case,” Admiral Mullen said. “I know we are and hope to continue to look (at deployments) first to peel back the causes to get to the root of this.”

Deborah Mullen, Admiral Mullen’s wife, accompanies him to many events that are military family related. I met both the Admiral & Mrs Mullen at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day 2009 where I was makring the 5th anniversary of my son’s death. They were both walking through Section 60, where more than 800 members of the military who were killed in Iraq & Afghanistan are buried. They were offering condolences to family members and friends, they offered hugs or a hand in friendship, so it was no surprise that Mrs Mullen attended the Suicide Prevention Conference. SFGate reports her message to the attendees:

Don’t forget the spouses.
Deborah Mullen said Army leaders told her that they lack the ability to track suicide attempts by family members of Army personnel. “I was stunned when I was told there are too many to track,” Mullen said, speaking on stage at a military suicide prevention conference next to her husband, Adm. Mike Mullen.
She urged the military to get a better handle on the problem and implement prevention measures with spouses in mind.

“There’s another side to this and that’s family members who commit suicide,” Mrs. Mullen said. “It’s our responsibility. These are our family members.”
Military-wide, she said, it’s not clear exactly how many military family members killed themselves last year. Some military spouses, Mrs. Mullen said, are reluctant to seek mental health help because it still carries an unfortunate stigma.
“Spouses tell me all the time that they want to get mental health assistance,” she said. “As incorrect as this is, they really do believe if they seek help it will have a negative impact on their spouse’s military career.”

Mrs Mullen’s message is spot on altough I would add one more thing. Don’t forget the parents.

I’m pretty sure that most parents who get that knock on the door consider suicide as one of their options, if only briefly, during those difficult days after they receive the terrible news of the death of their child. I know of too many parents who want to crawl inside at the first view of the flag covered coffin. One more hug, one more embrace. If only they could trade their life for their child’s.

Please do not forget the Gold Star parents!

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