More than 8,000 Veterans per year take their own lives. On average, that’s 667 per month, 154 per week, 22 per day, or one Veteran every 65 minutes. A lesser-known statistic is that more than half of these Veterans are 50 years or older.
In the past two years, much ado has been made about Veterans diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries—and rightfully so. For an increasing number of Veterans, the sense of urgency for wellness is steadily increasing and beginning to trump their fears or perceived shame of asking for help.
Why are so many Veterans in crisis?
For many of these heroes, there were no ticker tape parades, pomp and circumstance, or welcome home celebrations. While their reasoning is varied, many Veterans and family members continue to struggle with behavioral health challenges, a dissociative sense of belonging, and untimely or unavailable medical care.
As a retired U.S. Air Force member and former Air Force special agent, I investigated numerous Veteran suicides. Though many Veterans authored suicide notes and wills, some did not. Others replaced the notes with final telephone calls or goodbye emails. Common responses from family members included: “I just thought he/she was going through a rough spot,” or “Why didn’t his/her friends or supervisors intervene to help?”
So, how do we battle this epidemic?
Marine Veteran Timothy Lawson created the “1, 2, Many Project” and corresponding podcast to provide a powerful, in-depth focus on why Veterans consider, attempt and succeed in ending their own lives. Veterans participating in the project convey greater visibility and understanding of the issue, as they “walk” Tim through their decision-making processes, suicidal ideations and attempts. Furthermore, friends and loved ones relay their innermost feelings, daily struggles, and coping strategies in processing the sudden and seemingly unexplained deaths of Veterans closest to them. Most importantly, listeners learn how they and others can recognize, engage and act to assist Veterans in need.
Corey Christman retired from active duty United States Air Force service in 2012. Since retiring, he’s served in various veteran advocacy capacities to include crafting veteran employee retention strategies, veteran to veteran peer coaching methodologies and collaborating with colleges and universities to improve student veteran persistence and retention rates.