Recently I had to go to a funeral … one I shouldn’t have had to attend.
The gentleman was one of the first people I met when I arrived in Germany, and though only an acquaintance, his passing affected me personally.
This man, who was obviously loved by his family and friends, fell on tough times, couldn’t see a way out and took his own life.
For those of you who have never attended a funeral of someone who has taken their own life, let me describe the scene.
Not only do you find the melancholy associated with any death of a loved one, but under this circumstance, an air of shock, misplaced guilt and “what ifs” also fills the room.
Though I didn’t know him very well, even I pondered this. I hadn’t seen or spoken to him since last November. What if I had? What if I could’ve helped him and kept him from doing this? These are just my questions, and I can’t even imagine what his family members are asking themselves at this point.
For some, asking what I could have done to keep him from doing this may seem a little strange, but I have a little insight on the subject. I, myself, have been diagnosed with clinical depression, and have spent time in an in-patient hospital program because of suicidal ideations.
It was a difficult time in my life. At the time, I thought I couldn’t overcome it, but now years later, it all seems petty. A counselor I worked with put it very eloquently: Suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems.
Some of the more common symptoms of depression include trouble with eating and sleeping, feelings of worthlessness, and losing interest in things you usually care about. Looking back, when these things surfaced, I found that the longer I waited, the worse they got.
Probably the most important thing I learned while in the hospital is that talking helps. Often when people are depressed, they tend to shut off and keep to themselves, which is counter-productive. Just listening to other people talk about their problems made mine seem almost trivial.
If you are in pain, reach out and tell someone. As hopeless as everything may seem, people care about you enough to help. There are dozens of resources available to people having thoughts of suicide, ranging from hot lines to chat rooms to your local hospital’s emergency room.
Though my acquaintance wasn’t affiliated with the military, his tragedy is connected. This year, the Army has seen an alarming rise in suicides.
As of April 25, there have been 87 suicides among active duty, reservists and guardsmen, according to U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Army Substance Abuse Program officials.
Numbers aside, even one suicide is one too many.
The Army Suicide Prevention Program hits the nail on the head with the “A.C.E.” acronym. Ask your buddy, Care for your buddy, and Escort your buddy. If a friend or family member shows signs of depression or mentions ending their life, follow these steps and get them help immediately.
Don’t be embarrassed or scared to get help. Leadership from all military branches are continuously working to eliminate the stigma associated with getting assistance. Seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, immediately call the Military Crisis hot line at DSN 118, or civilian 00800-1273-8255.