Today We Remember / Today We Help
- February 22, 2022
There is an indescribable bond between those who have served in the military. Brothers in arms are those that share a very close, strong relationship. That relationship does not disappear when we return home. The connection remains, regardless of the branch where one has served. I believe military service ties us together always and comes with a responsibility to care for our brothers and sisters who have served. For me, that means helping to raise awareness for the heart-breaking tragedy of veteran suicide.
In the past 20 years, 30,177 active military and veterans from post-9/11 wars have committed suicide. That's four times as many deaths as those killed in action.
We need to help.
On calendar date 2/22/22, many veteran organizations are working together to raise awareness of veteran suicide. The popular press broadcast a statistic of 22 veterans a day taking their own lives. Equally as present is a debate of that statistic's accuracy. To me, the discussion of the number is not relevant. That it is happening at all is a tragedy. As a veteran and an advocate for mental health, I believe that even one veteran suicide is too many.
We need to do better.
Unfortunately, in some circles, discussing mental health is still taboo. It is seen as a weakness. Veterans are tough. A certain machismo encourages "sucking it up" among veterans. To break this cycle requires honest, open dialogue, awareness and support. We need to collectively move beyond the stigma of mental health as a weakness. Many veterans pride themselves on self-sufficiency. Personal responsibility is the foundation of the military culture. Asking for help for many veterans is very difficult.
We need to connect.
According to a recent academic study, depression rates have tripled during the pandemic. Isolation, loneliness, fear of contracting the virus, job loss and financial pressures are all cited as contributing to the skyrocketing rates of depression.
One of the benefits of having the NTT DATA employee resource group, Veterans and Employees Together (VET), is that we connect with other veterans. Even though we operate in a remote work environment, connecting is essential. Connecting promotes conversation, which is critical to combat the underlying causes of suicide.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has many resources to help veterans; a 24/7 helpline (800) 273-8255, a text number 838255 and an interactive confidential chat online. The Veteran Administration publishes an informative suicide prevention website that provides valuable information on recognizing the signs of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, or hopelessness, which include:
- Seeming sad, depressed, anxious, or agitated most of the time
- Sleeping either all the time or not much at all
- Not caring about what they look like or what happens to them
- Pulling away from friends, family, and society
- Losing interest in hobbies, work, school, or other things they used to care about
- Expressing feelings of excessive guilt or shame, failure, lack of purpose in life, or being trapped
We need to be observant.
We have strong mental health services, good leaders, and coworkers between NTT DATA and the Department of Veterans Affairs. One of the most significant advantages of our VET organization is that it provides a shortcut to building relationships. There are people you can reach out to. Now, more than ever, this is important to our mental health. Have a conversation. Don't let others suffer in silence. Reach out and talk to a veteran colleague. You do not have to be a mental health professional to know when someone is hurting. You can recommend that they seek help with the many available resources.
We need to listen.
Many veteran-owned organizations and charities are strongly committed to helping veterans. The Til Vahalla Project restores a bit of honor to the people that commit suicide by helping to remember their courage and service. While wearing a t-shirt will not get us where we need to be, it will start the conversation.
Talk to your colleagues. Talk to a veteran. Start the mental health conversation.