Taking Care of Our People
by Army Capt. Garrett Boyer, active-duty psychologist
at Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield in Georgia
In a 2020 report, the Department of Veterans Affairs stated that suicide was the 13th leading cause of death among veterans overall and the second leading cause of death among veterans under age 45. The irony is that they defended the nation and accepted the risk of dying on foreign soil, only to die by their own hand at home.
Amid the many threats to our service members, post-traumatic stress, survivor's guilt, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse are foes they must fight long after they hang up their uniforms.
Combat veterans are some of the toughest people there are. However, working through trauma requires a different toughness. One must recall experiences from the worst days of their life and mentally process those traumas. It is hard, scary and time consuming.
Many veterans think it is easier to repress bad memories. They think a drink may take some of the edge off, or marijuana will calm the storm. These coping strategies too often cause them to spiral out of control.
Spotlight: Taking Care of Our People
In hard moments, it is more helpful for veterans to make positive, life-affirming choices by seeking help—lean on a counselor, family and friends, or their faith; seek out support and assistance from the variety of mental health resources offered by the VA and the Military Health System; or simply pick up the phone to call the Veteran & Military Crisis Line and talk to a qualified responder any time, any day. The mission going forward is to work through trauma and get to a point where the memories of combat do not impede the ability to live a full, abundant life. Surely, that is a cause worth living for.
This story gives an opportunity for us to remind veterans—both past and those currently serving—that their sacrifices are worth living for. We can show our appreciation for their service by living our best lives. Do something nice for a neighbor. Get involved in your child's school. Thank a service member and a veteran and their families when you see them. Salute the flag.
And remember that you live in a nation where we are willing to do what it takes so we can be free to live a good life. That's worth dying for, and worth living for.
Resources: For anyone experiencing a mental health crisis, needs immediate assistance, or simply to talk to someone, confidential help is available 24/7.
The Military & Veteran Crisis Line, text-messaging service, and online chat provide free support for all service members, including members of the National Guard and Reserve, and all veterans, even if they are not registered with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or enrolled in VA health care.
Call: 988 and press 1, Text: 838255, Click to Chat
Military OneSource is a 24/7 gateway to trusted information for service members and families that provides resources and confidential help. Call 800-342-9667.
The Psychological Health Resource Center is available 24/7 for service members, veterans, and family members with questions about psychological health topics. Trained mental health consultants can help you access mental health care and community support resources in your local area. Call 1-866-966-1020, start a live chat, or visit www.health.mil/PHRC.
The inTransition Program has 20 FAQs that are a helpful introduction to the program. You can call 800-424-7877, or in Australia, Germany, Italy, Japan, and South Korea call 0800-748-81111. Email the program directly at: [email protected]
The Military Health System, DOD, and VA have many mental health resources available to help any service member, families, or veteran beneficiaries who are struggling with mental health challenges. Read Mental Health is Health Care for a complete list of resources for immediate assistance or to make appointments.