Recent data regarding veteran suicide indicates a slight overall reduction but an increase in suicides by recently discharged service members. The time of military discharge can be particularly stressful as veterans transition from a military lifestyle to civilian life, look for work, consider educational opportunities, and all-too-often find that the stress of this time in their lives leads to breakups in marriages and other supportive relationships. A promising approach for this subgroup of veterans is the veteran partnership approach.
Social Isolation and Veteran Suicide
When a person changes jobs, moves to a different city, or leaves a longstanding relationship they are confronted with various tasks such as finding work, housing, new friends and generally navigating the complexities of changes in their everyday life. The transition from military to civilian life contains all of these difficulties and more due to the different nature of life in military services versus life in the civilian world. Those who are going home to extended family, a job, a stable family, and close friends generally are more successful than those who lack these stabilizing factors. On the far end of the spectrum is the veteran who has none of these support systems in place and even ends up living on the street. Social isolation makes depression and PTSD worse and is especially difficult with those who have traumatic brain syndrome. The end result is all-too-often the veteran taking their own life.
Providing a Lifeline to Resources and Help for At Risk Veterans
There is ample data showing that isolated veterans do not do as well as those who are connected to family, friends, work, and support sources such as concerned health care professionals. A particularly useful approach in this regard may well be the veteran sponsorship partner network. The purpose of this approach is to set up partnerships with community organizations to facilitate housing assistance, educational benefits, and employment opportunities for transitioning veterans. The benefit of this approach is twofold. First it helps connect the veteran with organizations and people who can help them in the practical aspects of making their transition. The second is simply that it connects the veterans to people who are fully aware of the sorts of problems including increased suicide risk that veterans face. No matter how effective new therapies such as the use of psychedelics as adjuncts to psychotherapy can be they are of no use unless the veteran and his support system are aware of them and get the veteran plugged in where needed.
One to One Support Via Veteran Sponsorship
The key feature of the veteran sponsorship partner network is that pairs a veteran with a person. Follow this link for more information regarding this program. If you are a transitioning veteran check this out. If you know a veteran who is just now leaving military service, suggest this program to them. This program focuses on getting help to veterans who need it during the critical first year coming out of military service. As we watch the numbers being reported it strikes us again and again how so many veterans and so much veteran data has fallen through the cracks. State medical examiners may choose not to report a veteran’s death as a suicide. Or, if they do that information does not reach the proper authorities and get tabulated. For all of its faults the Veterans Administration system does have facilities to help veterans but when the majority of veterans receive their health care outside of that system, they are often not directed to resources that provide support and direct help. The one on one support provided by the veteran sponsorship partner network can provide a critical link in the chain of support so critical to preventing veteran suicide.
Staying Connected and Getting Help When Needed for Veterans
Life in the military services is highly regimented. Civilian life typically is not. Veterans who adapted well to military life commonly lack, or forgot, the skills needed to navigate civilian life. One sad fact is that vets often feel that asking for help is admitting weakness and refrain from getting the assistance that they need. A useful aspect of the one on one pairing in the veteran sponsorship partner network is that a veteran is more likely to confide in a person he becomes to know well and whom he or she trusts. In this way veteran partnerships to prevent suicide are meant to work.