Veterans: Sharing your experience can save a life


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I received a Facebook message over the weekend from Marine friend that I hadn’t heard from in months. “Do you have time to talk today?”

I looked at the time sent: 2:30 a.m. This couldn’t be good. No one wants to talk about podcast collaborations that early in the morning, and deep conversations usually come with this precursor message.

When we connected, he admitted he was depressed and wasn’t sure what to do. He was looking for my advice. I told him that letting someone know is an important first step.

His depression had been going on for about a year, and he was starting to experience suicide ideation. I began listing off a number of things I believed could help him. I recommended finding his local Vet Center, journaling, volunteering, getting involved with his Team RWB chapter, among other things. I reassured him that if none of those ideas helped, that I could connect him with a dozen more. I punctuated my list of helpful thoughts with the Veterans Crisis Line. I emphasized that the VCL should always be his first step when he finds himself in crisis, especially if he considers harming himself.

Before we hung up, I reassured him he could reach out to me whenever he needed to talk, and I reiterated my support for the VCL.

I receive these calls often. Not because I’m a suicide prevention guru or because I have the secret to happiness, but because I put myself out there. I told the world my story of suicide. I humbled myself, shared my dark history, and trusted listeners with my vulnerable experiences. My friends know they can come to me when they’re in a similar situation.

Sharing your experience can save a life. I’ve learned this to be true regarding all negative experiences Veterans go through. Timothy Jones, a male sexual assault survivor, receives similar contact from those that heard his story, can relate, and need to talk to someone that understands. I know Veterans that have stood on their stories of depression, sexual assault, homelessness, PTSD, and more, to become a lightning rod of hope and empathy from their audience.

We all want to reach millions with our story, but that’s only so we can trust we reach the one that needs to hear it.

That’s what this blog is for. That’s what our podcast is for. That’s what websites like Make the Connection are for. To share our stories, hoping the person who needs to hear it will be reminded they’re not alone and that the can always reach out for help.

Author

Timothy Lawson

Timothy Lawson has been a member of VA's Digital Media Engagement team since April 2016. He graduated from American University's School of Communications in 2016 with a degree in Broadcast Journalism. Tim is a Marine Corps Veteran having served as a Marine Security Guard posted at embassies in Algeria, Russia, and Peru.

Comments

  1. Kathy O'Connor    

    I don’t have a negative experience, but am an Air Force vet interested in helping other vets. Would you be able to point me in the right direction?

  2. ron warner    

    what the nam did was leave most all with a bit of darkness,for me I found healing with beleaveing jesus wasthe Christ,the son of God,I gave him my life and he is healing it more than anything else could,you think the nam was hell,try dieing with out,jesus ,it hell with out him,simper fi.

  3. Ron Wright    

    I wish I knew a Vet who needed help, mainly to get them help, but I posted the above to a number of FaceBook pages and other email boards.

    We need to spread the word for there are many hurting out here and we are all in this together.

    Nam messed me up and took me 20 years to realize it. Fortunely I made it. Help where you can other Vets to make it.

  4. Lori Manning    

    Having others validate my experience & not judge made the biggest difference. Glad I asked for help! My VA MH provider is a Godsend.

    1. david bertoldo    

      help is too late when i came home from Vietnam 1966 i was spit on and called baby killer Now people say thanks for your service and i resent that its to late My farther a congessional medal of honor holder ww2 was given cheers we were the dogs and that wont chance

  5. Sande Harris    

    Thank you for the article. I’ve got my own battles I wage about having served during peace time, much less these brave souls who have served during war time. Thank you for helping others through their nightmares.

  6. James R Voitik Sr    

    This sight is not secure. I just attempted to post PROOF of damages from a VA hospital and it refused to post. This is a great comment sight???

  7. Tyra Branch    

    Thank you so much for “putting yourself out there” and being vulnerable with your story. I am sure it wasn’t easy, but you gathered up the courage needed to be able to help others and for that you will be rewarded. I am currently a graduate student studying to become a nurse pracitioner and we recently had a discussion related to mental health. This issue has been a new and touching area in my life as my younger brother was diagnosed within the last few years. He also had suicidal ideations, but was given a number to call with which he could receive assistance. I do feel that those types of open communication helps the patient feel “normal” as they are able to express themselves as well as seek the medical attention needed to maintain their sanity. I do feel that mental health issues should be assessed and has the ability to take a bit more time than a physical ailment as the brain is a very complex organ. However, if there are no facilities willing and able to give the attention they need, it will remain a on-going cycle. Thanks again for your story and may God continue to bless you and your family with health and wellness.

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