We're taught early on as newly sworn-in service members to "adapt and overcome" or "suck it up."
During basic training, we're faced with rigorous physical challenges and told to change our socks and take ibuprofen for every ailment. We strengthen our minds to quiet any outside noise during wartime and find the strength to get through our mission. We are conditioned to keep going, not only for ourselves but for our comrades. We can't let them down. They depend on us, just as we rely on them. We must keep going, and that way of thinking often helps service-members make it through difficult times.
It's no surprise that we are often stoic when faced with other hardships in life. Veterans can be faced with many issues, like unemployment, physical handicaps, sense of self, and mental health issues like depression and PTSD.
According to USO.org, military suicide rates are four times higher than deaths during military operations.
So why don't we ask for help? Most of it boils down to pride, fear of being viewed as weak, or a disappointment in ourselves because we couldn't carry it all. Some veterans will say that physical injuries make admitting their mental health injuries easier because the wounds are visible and easier to understand.
The problem with keeping our feelings inside a box is that eventually, they will eat us alive. Having a support system that allows candid conversations is a critical factor for service members, as well as talking to others who have similar experiences.
The perception of asking for help has evolved significantly in the last ten years. We are challenging our country's fighting force and the people that love them to normalize real talk. Normalize asking the hard questions and talking through uncomfortable feelings.
Normalize asking for help with a job opportunity. Normalize seeking our professional therapy.
Now more than ever, we need to talk.
Flags of Valor is happy to support several organizations committed to taking care of veterans. One of them is Stop Soldier Suicide, a group that works to help veterans and their families access mental health resources, emergency financial aid, housing assistance, and other help. This veteran-run organization assigns case managers to craft individual plans of action and follows veterans and their needs for 24 months to ensure issues are being addressed.
During business hours (Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern), Stop Soldier Suicide operates a toll-free case manager line at 1-844-889-5610.
Let's stop waiting. Let's take care of each other. Let's normalize speaking up when we need support.