Editorial: Thank you veterans

November 12, 2011

Thank you, veterans.

Too seldom do we as a culture say that to the men and women who have served our country in the military.

One way is to attend the Veterans Day service at Anderson's Tribute Center, or The Dalles' "Past, Present and Future" parade, on Nov. 11. Both events start at 11 a.m. From our World War II veterans in their 80s or 90s, to the teenagers who today serve in the branches of the service, including National Guard, our nation should set aside its political viewpoints and give our veterans their due - on Nov. 11 and every other day of the year.

Oregon Partnership provides a sobering note upon this important federal holiday: Veterans account for a troubling 20 percent of our nation's suicides. This means that every day in the United States, an average of 18 veterans take their own lives - or about one every 80 minutes.

Twenty-seven percent of Oregon's suicides are veterans. From 2005 to 2010, active service members took their own lives at a rate of approximately one every 36 hours.

Suicide is preventable; a local effort is now starting to address the problem of suicide for people of all ages and circumstances.

An article on page A1 provides an example of suicide myth v. reality, courtesy of Oregon Youth Suicide Prevention website, www.dhs.state.or .

Here is another that could well encompass the troubling experiences of our veterans:

Myth: "The things that cause suicide happen so fast and are so powerful that no one can do anything to stop suicide."

Reality: A sudden, painful event may set off or hasten a decision to die by suicide, but it is unlikely to be the only cause. More typically, other contributing events and feelings have occurred over a prolonged period of time.

There are often a number of opportunities to do something helpful. We need to recognize the stressful events and the person's feelings about and reactions to them as invitation to get involved. Even when a very big loss happens suddenly, there is still much that can be done to prevent suicide. With help, human beings are capable of withstanding almost any kid of loss.

According to Oregon Partnership, post-traumatic stress may occur in those who experience or witness intense violence, serious accidents, or life-threatening events. Many veterans and active military balk at seeking help through traditional channels due to fear of negative career impact, the stigma of perceived weakness among their peers and frustration with red tape. Left untreated, the challenges can intensify as they feel more isolated.

"Often it's family and friends who see the conflict, but don't know how to help. We encourage them to call us day or night," said Josh Groesz, Iraq War veteran and director of the Military Helpline. "This is a tangible way to truly thank people for their military service."

The line is answered by a highly trained and dedicated team of volunteer crisis workers, many of whom have military backgrounds. All possess a strong understanding of the serious issues that can impact service members and their families, including the loss of a job, family strife, alcohol and drug abuse, home foreclosure, post-traumatic stress, suicidal thoughts and other medical and health care concerns.

Service members, military veterans and their family members struggling with thoughts of suicide, feelings they don't understand, pain they can't define and questions that need answers receive immediate free, anonymous assistance from Oregon Partnership's Military Helpline - 888- 457-4838 - or for a secure chat line:

www.MilitaryHelpline.org .

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