By Candace Hewett, This Week in the Pentagon Producer
Late last year my colleague and I produced a series of programs for the Pentagon Channel on the rising numbers of suicides among servicemembers. Those in uniform were taking their own lives at a rate slightly higher than individuals in the civilian population. Although the reasons vary why someone would chose suicide, post-traumatic stress seemed to be an underlying cause for many.
According to health experts, post-traumatic stress disorder can be complicated to diagnose, especially when those in need of care fear the stigma associated with seeking mental health treatment. In interviews, surviving family members all said, in hindsight, there were telltale signs and symptoms of depression in their loved ones. But knowing how to read the person who is suffering, and getting that person the appropriate help before it’s too late, was the overwhelming challenge. One life lost to suicide is one too many. Children left parentless, wives left widows, and parents left childless – were almost unbearable to watch. What gave us hope, were those lives saved. And the people who took action when they noticed something was amiss with their family member or friend.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. In recent years there has been a shift in awareness, education, and recognizing the warning signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress. The Army, in particular, has spearheaded resiliency training among troops. And a handful of top military leaders have even come forward to share their own stories of struggle with depression, and combat stress. Even with the gains that have been made, much still remains to be done. If you know someone who’s been under an unusual amount of stress and isn’t acting like his or her usual self – that person may need help. Who knows – the life saved may be your own.
You can learn more about Mental Health Awareness by watching the May 27th edition of “This Week in the Pentagon.”