by Britta Reque-Dragicevic
This first appeared in Britta Reque-Dragicevic’s blog “Life After War” on July 1, 2015, and is republished with the author’s permission.
One of my Soldiers learned today that he lost a soldier to suicide. One of my Marines attended the funeral this week of a brother who went Home early. I’m sure there are many more of you who are dealing with this kind of loss right now. And many of you who are contemplating killing your Self.
If you are in imminent risk of ending your life, please call 911 or 988 for the National Suicide Hotline
Today, “988” is the three-digit, nationwide phone number to connect directly to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. By calling or texting 988, you’ll connect with mental health professionals with the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Veterans can press “1” after dialing 988 to connect directly to the Veterans Crisis Lifeline which serves our nation’s Veterans, service members, National Guard and Reserve members, and those who support them. For texts, Veterans should continue to text the Veterans Crisis Lifeline short code: 838255.
Tell that to your brothers and sisters. I wish you could see what this does to those you leave behind. Yes, I know you’ve lost people, too. You DO know what the pain feels like. And yes, you’re tired of it never getting better.
But as for that lie that others are better off without you? It’s a lie. It gives you an excuse to quit.
If no one cared about you, if it’s true that no one cared about those who commit suicide, then why are my soldier and marine crying this week? Why is there a place in our hearts that feels hollow, that aches, that wonders why you didn’t reach out, that questions whether we could have prevented it, that leaves us feeling defeated, wondering how we can stop this thing called suicide from taking more of us?
Here’s the thing. Suicide is NOT the enemy. It’s not some force out there that’s killing our veterans. We can’t defeat it. It’s not an entity in itself. Suicide is a thought. It’s a lie that tired and wounded and lonely hearts that have fought too long alone choose to believe. It’s the lie that says because nothing has helped you get better, nothing ever will. It’s a state of being disconnected from your sense of power and ability to find healing. But it’s not some external force that steals in and kills you. Suicide is a choice.
If you’re thinking of killing your Self, and you’re reading this, then don’t you dare let the thought that no one cares and that others are better off without you be your excuse and your permission to take you from us.
You think about your brothers and sisters. You think about those people who risked their lives in combat to protect yours. Brothers and sisters who would have and did die for you. Are you really going to quit on them? Are you really going to let your death tell them that all of THAT — all of that struggle and love and suffering and risk — was for nothing? You survived all that just to come back and kill yourself?!? How dare you.
You know why suicide cuts deep for the rest of us? It’s not just that we miss you. It’s a betrayal of the Love and brotherhood. Yes, we are compassionate. We know your pain. We know you didn’t mean to hurt us, we tell ourselves all kinds of things to make it easier not to deal with the reality that you killing yourself feels like a betrayal. It makes us angry. You chose to hurt us. You decided our love was not enough. You didn’t even give us a chance to help you change your mind.
We live in a time and age when there are plenty of resources to get help. If the VA fails you, we have private mental health providers. There are nonprofits galore out there ready to help, programs everywhere, chaplains, counselors, social workers, 911, the police. You have NO EXCUSE for not getting help. If it was your brother out there, in trouble downrange, you would have no excuse for not doing everything in your power to save his life. You have no excuse now.
The rest of us think it’s our responsibility to stop this so-called suicide epidemic. But no one comes to a decision of suicide suddenly. It’s pondered for weeks and months and years. All of which during that time you could be getting help. And when you do choose suicide, it’s not the rest of us that have failed. It’s your choice.
Do I sound a little angry? Yes. I’m writing this with anger. Because this is where suicide takes me. I’m sick of watching my soldiers and marines cry for brothers and sisters they blame themselves for not being able to save. I’m tired of the lies you choose to believe. I’m tired of the lie that no one cares.
We care. Reach out. If your love for one another could get you through combat, it sure as hell can get you through this. Suicide is a choice. Choose not to. Choose life. Let us love you.
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.
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