By David R. Hopper, 55th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 27, 2017
The Veterans Crisis Line is one of many avenues for service members and veterans to use who are considering suicide. Suicide prevention is an important role that everyone needs to be aware of and participate in.
Nothing can prepare a person to deal with the never-ending attraction to suicide when faced with a lifetime of unending pain.
After the realization that my life had been forever altered and the road ahead was filled with pain and medication, a darkness entered my life that was as real as any other illness I had faced.
Chronic pain and the continuous haze of pain medication led me to depression. This depression is what I refer to as darkness because it led me down a path I never thought I would get to…suicide.
Since I am writing this to you today, it is obvious that I didn’t follow through on thoughts to end my life. But I am one of the lucky ones because I got help.
When I was 19, an accident left me with permanent, intense back and neck pain. I was left unable to do things that I loved to do - things that I had just done the week before. This is when the demons were the strongest. I call my darkness demons because I felt helpless, hopeless, useless and worthless.
I was only married for a year when it happened and I went into a mode of trying to push her away so that if I finally gave in and ended my life maybe she wouldn’t hurt as much. I had several ways planned out and the closest I ever came was sitting on the edge of the bed with a gun to my head.
Just when I thought the struggles in life couldn’t get worse, I had to experience the loss of my mother. Now I know that I am not the first person to lose a mother but when you struggle with ideations of ending your life, it doesn’t take much to push you in that direction again.
I should have asked for help earlier but I was afraid of what people would think, I was afraid of losing my job, I was afraid they would lock me away so I didn’t hurt anyone. The main theme for not getting help was fear, I was afraid of everything but…dying.
I have to admit, I am lucky to be here today for so many reasons. I am blessed to have a wife who saw through my efforts to push her away. I owe her my life. I am lucky to have found my faith in 2004 and realized that I wasn’t going through this struggle alone. Jesus saved my life. I am lucky that I finally decided to seek help with mental health professionals at the VA. They also helped saved my life.
Nowadays, when I struggle, there is someone who has made it her mission to give me strength – my daughter. On several occasions, when I have felt myself feeling somewhat down and didn’t think anyone noticed or even cared, I will find a new drawing with words of encouragement on my bed that brings a smile to my face. The empathy she shows at such a young age is truly a blessing in my life.
The thoughts of suicide still go through my mind every now and then and I don’t know that it will ever end but I have found so much to hold on to.
My advice to anyone who is thinking about suicide is very simple. Don’t let fear control your thoughts in life and hold on to the things that truly matter. Suicide is not the answer to any question. Seeking help in this area is no different than going to the doctor for a physical illness. They diagnose or try to find out what is wrong and then they try to help. Don’t live in the darkness, there are those who care for you but you need to call them or they can’t help.
Just a reminder for those not dealing with these thoughts. Be prepared and available when and if someone reaches out to you. They may be looking for help and wanting you to ask those hard questions when they cannot. Learn the warning signs of suicide, if someone talks about dying all the time, they are probably struggling. If you know they love to do something and they just quit or they have a favorite trinket and they just give it away, that’s a red flag. Once you have identified the behavior, it is important to make sure they get the help they need, even if it requires you walk them there yourself.
Don’t take a chance with your friend or family member’s life, encourage them to seek help.
If you have a military family member you think might be struggling with thoughts of suicide, visit http://www.dspo.mil/Portals/113/Documents/Family-Guide-DSPO-2014.pdf.