Guest Author - Monica J. Foster
Every year, almost one million people die from suicide in America. In fact, military veterans committed suicide at the rate of between 18.7 to 20.8 per 100,000, compared to other Americans, who did so at the rate of 8.9 per 100,000. That's more than two times the overall national average among disabled veterans.
Living with a disability, whether veteran or civilian, doesn't exclude you from becoming suicidal or having thoughts of wanting to kill yourself. It doesn't take a professional to recognize the signs of someone thinking of committing suicide. Anyone can detect the signs of suicide, too, but it is often too late before the threat of suicide is realized. Be aware and supportive.
Look for the signs. An individual contemplating suicide may exhibit such behaviors as abusing alcohol and/or drugs, increased discussions about death and 'what if I were gone' conversations, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, isolating themselves, decreased interest in typically enjoyed activities, impulsive and destructive behaviors, changes in sleeping and eating patterns (too much and too little), writing a will out of the blue, excessive feelings of shame or guilt, excessive crying and anger, erratic emotions, dropping out of daily routines, disappearing for hours at a time for no reason, becoming more quiet or talking more irrationally, etc. While any one of these behaviors could be contributed to something else like recent trauma or stress or mental illness, a combination of these things over a period of time are something to pay close attention to and address before it is too late.
If you are thinking about killing yourself, take a breath first. Stop. List 10 things you like about yourself and your life without stopping - at least five if you think 10 is too hard. Slow down and try to change your thought process. Focus on those five things individually and recall an event or person in your life that follows when each of those five things comes to mind. Remember, even if you died, the pain is never over. Your pain and problems will have a ripple effect among friends, neighbors, family, co-workers, classmates and others.
After a suicide, the survivors are left to pick up the pieces, whether it be your loss, your unsettled debts and finances, your home, pets, the care of your children and significant others, What will linger will be the guilt and wonder of how they couldíve saved you. People who love and look up to you will, particularly others in pain or who are at an impressionable age, think it's an acceptable choice to make about ending the pain in their lives.
Feelings of pain and sadness are temporary, fleeting. Suicide, on the other hand, is an irreversible, permanent act. There are alternatives and people out there waiting to assist you in turning your life around.
People with disabilities might feel a more pressing urge to commit suicide because of loneliness or feeling like a burden to friends, family and caregivers. This couldnít be further from the truth. If you have come through an illness or injury this far, move forward some more before cutting progress short. You just might surprise yourself and your loved ones will be so proud of your efforts and their part in your progress.
If you know someone who is talking about suicide or is unhappy about their life, please listen. Talk with them without judgment, pushing or being confrontational. People with disabilities are human, and like everyone else, challenges bring on a great deal of stress and pain. Suicide and its pain do not discriminate.
Seek your spiritual or religious advisorsí help. Often, getting in touch with your spiritual side and your Higher Power will help ground you in right now and help you move forward rather than hanging on to past worries.
Prepare a memory box or journal where you can keep mementos, poems and photos that lift you up or where you can write and draw your thoughts. Being able to remember better times can help us change our thought processes from doom and gloom into a happier outlook. If it was that good in those photos or memories, it can be good again. Really! Writing or drawing (you don't have to be like Van Gogh to draw) is a great release for our emotions and thoughts, too. Both can help us get a grip on reality rather than drowning in a pool of emotions we feel no one else would understand. Crafting or other hobby are good ways to refocus as well.
Reach out to others living a similar situation or who have a similar disability experience. Look for support groups and get acquainted at your rehabilitation center. Itís always helpful to hear how others with similar disabilities or experiences deal with their challenges so you can share ideas with one another. Ask them how they handle their darkest days and share some of your solutions as well. You will soon realize you arenít so different, that you arenít the only one who feels down and that you need one another.
If you can't seem to shake the thoughts of suicide, you are not crazy to consider talking to a medical or counseling professional or calling a suicide hotline. It does not mean you will be locked up or that it will be broadcast all over the community. Information shared counselors and peers on hotlines is confidential. Counseling is actually an excellent, responsible step to realize the situation is bigger than you can handle and you need to lean on someone. Often you might find that you are dealing with things that you shouldn't be dealing with alone. Being independent in your routine or choices does not mean baring the weight alone. Everyone needs help sometimes. Surround yourself in supportive options.
There are ways you can better deal with trouble rather than choose suicide. Take it slow as your mind races to the conclusion of suicide. Surround yourself in positive images, words and people. Following some of this advice, youíll discover new activities, ways of coping or make a new friend to reach out to.