(WJHL) – When in war, a soldier battles against enemy fire, but when they return home, many are faced with another battle – but this one is in their own mind.
It’s an enemy they were never taught a defense against.
“We lost our oldest son; his name was Teagan,” said Tori Stratton. “June 24, of this summer, he took his own life at a military installation in Texas.”
In the military, soldiers are taught to find a problem and solve it.
Molly Colley, the Northeast Regional Director for the TN Suicide Prevention Network, says this makes the problem complex, because many highly trained soldiers don’t ask for help, not even when they need it most.
“I think that can be some things culturally within our military and within the veteran population that can make it very difficult to talk about these issues,” Colley said.
Laura Rasnake is the Supervisor of the Suicide Prevention Program at the VA. She says anyone can help.
“What I tell folks is, if you’re having a good feeling that someone is hurting, we want to empower our community to ask,” Rasnake said.
Rasnake says the easiest way you can help is simply by being there.
“When you’re listening to them, it’s also important to let them know that it can get better and try to help the people in your life that are struggling find the resources that are available,” Rasnake said.
For those struggling with suicide loss, Mission 22 has helped Tori Stratton and her family.
“We needed a place to put our thoughts and our heart after we lost Teagan and Mission 22 is it. We know ourselves being military family that veteran suicide is an issue, and we want to be part of fixing that,” Stratton said.
From Mission 22 to veterans groups to the VA, there are so many resources available.
“Our veterans, they need the opportunity to be able to reach out to a like community that’s in their best interest. So my first piece of advice would be to give them resources they need in order to to stay here with us where we want them,” Stratton said.
Experts also say to look out for signs, like mood changes or withdrawal and learn about proper firearm storage.
“Go with your gut. Your gut can be an amazing tool when it comes to recognizing the signs that are going on with people in your life,” Colley said.
But more than anything, this is about shifting the public mindset on what suicide means.
“Suicide is not a moral flip failing is not a character flaw,” Colley said. “This is a situation where people are struggling, they’re in physical or psychological or emotional pain or they are experiencing numbness, and it really just comes down to someone who is hurting who wants the pain to stop.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, whether they are a veteran or not, please don’t hesitate to reach out for help.
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255, and there are always people standing by to listen.