But Ashley knew better. The fights were getting bad. The kids were getting scared. One night he retreated to a hotel room, but not before grabbing his guns and some booze. When she called him later that night, she says she was horrified to hear him say he “might do something stupid.”
Broken by Battle Wounded by War
My Love is Forever To you this I swore
I Will Quiet your silent screams Help Heal your shattered soul Until once again My Love
You are whole
– The Battling Bare Promise
“Her husband, Robert, a former Marine turned Army infantry staff sergeant, was struggling through the fog after war that had left him cold and clouded ever since returning from his second tour in Iraq in 2010. A string of recent suicides among friends and battle buddies had only made things worse.”
Promoting social, emotional, and spiritual wellness
Our patients remind us every day that the work we do matters, that we have much more to learn, and that the more we understand suicidal behavior in veterans, the more we can do to reduce their suffering. We need to promote their social, emotional, and spiritual wellness. Encouraging resilience, optimism, and mental health can protect them from depression, suicidal ideation and behavior. Resilience can be promoted by teaching patients to:
Build relationships with family members and friends who can provide support
Think well about themselves and identify their areas of strength
Invest time and energy in developing new skills
Challenge negative thoughts; try to find optimistic ways of viewing any situation
Look after their physical health and exercise regularly
Get involved in community activities to help counter feelings of isolation
Ask for assistance and support when they need it.67
Our knowledge about what works and what does not work in suicide prevention in veterans is evolving. Research addressing combat-related PTSD, depression, and suicidal behavior in war veterans is critically needed to better understand the nature of these conditions.
What is not referred to more and becoming an equally alarming problem is the suicide rate among family members and loved ones of combat veterans who suffer from severe symptoms of PTSD. Children who are exposed to siblings and parents with severe moral injury along with spouses can become suicidal. Following is an example of a recent anonymous quote from a mother who lost not only a son in combat, but a daughter who committed suicide as a result of losing her brother.
“SUICIDE ALSO HAPPENS within the family… again,,, something to be pushed under a carpet and forgotten.. my daughter took her life over losing her brother in Afghanistan.. A SAD STATISTIC that NOBODY CARES ABOUT NOR PAYS MUCH ATTENTION TOO.. THE FAMILY IS LEFT ON ITS OWN..~~~ I HAVE PAID ONE HUGE PRICE FOR THE LOSS OF MY SON …. I HAVE NOW LOST TWO CHILDREN!!!!!”
I am now more aware of implications of “suicidal ideation and behavior.” Please take the time to educate yourself so that you can support your loved ones more effectively as they readjust following combat duty. Keep a close eye on yourself and other family members as well. The family as a whole is totally at risk of taking on the same symptoms of PTSD, including suicidal behaviors…
Steve Sparks Author Reconciliation: A Son’s Story
About the author
Steve Sparks is a retired information technology sales and marketing executive with over 35 years of industry experience, including a Bachelors’ in Management from St. Mary’s College. His creative outlet is as a non-fiction author, writing about his roots as a post-WWII US Navy military child growing up in the 1950s-1960s.
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