Mental Health Awareness Week…”Military Suicide Leaves Survivors Struggling With Shame, Guilt And Social Stigma.” by David Wood

by | Oct 7, 2013

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Mental Health  Awareness Week…  Quote from this website…

Mental Illness Awareness Week, Oct. 6-12, 2013

In 1990, the U.S. Congress established the first full week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) in recognition of NAMI’s efforts to raise mental illness awareness. Since then, mental health advocates across the country have joined with others in their communities to sponsor activities, large or small, for public education about mental illness.

The social stigma and pain of suicide…

“The first thing that Shanette Booker had to do, when she awoke one dawn to find that her husband, Army Staff Sgt. Andre Booker, had shot himself to death on the floor of their bedroom closet, was to gulp down her shock and horror and get her two young boys out of the house.”

My focus today during “mental health awareness week” is on the topic of military suicides.  The stigma connected with mental health conversation is every day, not just this week…  Over the past couple of years many of my blog posts have included the challenges we all face with others and ourselves in particular when attempting to discuss the matter of mental illness…  It is a painful subject, especially the ultimate consequence of suicide.  My early departure from the US Navy in 1965 after two years of honorable service was a result of excellent treatment by Navy mental health professionals at the time and a concern about suicide.  I believe my life was saved by sending me home away from the apparent stressful conditions connected with my shore & sea duty assignments.  Several months prior to my separation from the US Navy, and the most troublesome period, there is little or no memory to help me reconcile.   In reading my own medical records from that time so long ago, I remain grateful to the excellent medical attention received that probably helped prevent my demise. 

Returning home was no picnic to be sure, but getting back to civilian life was the better path for my mental health at the time.  Healing from traumatic experiences is a lifelong journey.  It is the awareness and attention of loved ones, friends, and mental health professionals who are willing to pay attention to symptoms and help those who suffer begin the journey of healing.  Although it is a lifelong work in progress to stay grounded with mental health challenges, I feel blessed to be here to enjoy my golden years with loved ones and close friends.  My work in making a difference for others is especially critical as part of my own positive quality of life… 

Take some time this week and check in with your loved ones and friends and talk just a little about the challenges of mental health and the critical need for more awareness.  Once we start talking we can begin the journey of healing…  Take a look at the excellent website resource provided by to help you learn how to talk effectively about the subject of mental health.  You could save the life of a loved one or dear friend…

Steve Sparks
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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