Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Veterans Suicides Increased: Coping Advice from One Vet to Another

It is alarming to see the recently released statistics on suicides amongst military Veterans (22 per day/ 1 every 65 minutes).  This issue brings to mind the questions of:
  • Are we doing enough?
  • Is this a result of measures put in place to merely check the block?
  • Why are Veterans not speaking up?
  • If they speak up, are they being heard?
I want to share my own personal experiences and coping strategies. 

I was medically retired from the US Army last September 2012.  After spending many years in the military, it is shocking and a dramatic change to be in this status.  While in the Service, I was always around Soldiers and I was part of a mission that was bigger than myself.  Now, retired, my days cannot be compared to those spent in the Army. Now, life forces me to embark in the great quest for meaning, purpose, motivations, and drive.

  • Does it sounds like isolation, lack of purpose and motivation can be common issues amongst Veterans?
  • Does the lack of purpose, meaning, motivation and drive, could result in self-destructive behaviors?
I will not attempt to answer these questions, I would defer that to the mental health professionals.  But, I can share those things that I find helpful in overcoming sadness, frustrations and isolation.

Based on my own personal experience, I want to advice other Veterans to try to engage in tasks that will be meaningful and will give some level of gratification.  For example, in days I feel sad and isolated I read, write or do something meaningful in the house that will be noticed by my wife.  The simple fact that she notices it, gives me gratification.  Reading or writing gives me the satisfaction of feeling of having accomplished something at the end of the day.  The constant engagement in different things gives purpose to my day.  I also try to engage in some kind of physical activity or exercise on a daily basis. I understand that engagement can be very difficult after a traumatic brain injury.  It is difficult but not impossible. 

As Veterans, we need to be vigilant for those behaviors that if rooted can potentially become problematic.  Finding purpose, motivation and meaning is unique to each individual.  All can be found and attained. Maintaining discipline and a neat personal appearance have been very helpful in the upkeep of my feelings and emotions.  Even though I am not in the Army anymore, I still keep and present myself with a Soldier-like attitude and appearance. 

Things I have found instrumental to avoid negative emotions are:
  • Involvement with the church and God
  • Speaking to other Veterans
  • Speaking to other people in general
  • Attending school
  • Physical activities/ Exercise
Please remember:
  • God cares; no problem is too big for him.
  • Your family loves you; the pain inflicted on them by a suicide is gigantic.
  • Many people out there treasure and value your Service; they would love the opportunity to help.
  • Never be ashamed for sharing and talking about things that are bothering you; getting things off your chest will be a relief.
  • There is always HOPE.
  • It will get better.
  • We care for you; and we are thankful for your Service.
The Veterans Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255) is there to help.

Thank you for serving!



  1. So happy to see you writing again. I'm sure I am not the only one that has missed you. I'm sure this post will help many people out there that are not so lucky as you and me. Thank you Victor for being there for you fellow people. Please keep up the writing you have such a way with words. Love to you and your beautiful wife. Your friend always, Lee

  2. Victor, I enjoyed reading what you wrote. It helps out since my husband is getting ready to be medically retired in the next few weeks. It is a scary process but I know we can overcome. I also urge you to continue to write. Thank you for all that you and Roxana do.
    Sincerely, Tanya