September is the month of Suicide Prevention in the Army. So I wanted to talk to the families as well as the soldiers reading this. Being in the military can be very stressful and demanding, and most military personnel and their families are at a high risk for depression. I totally get that! I think this month everyone should learn the signs and symptoms of depression. Soldiers and especially families are highly reluctant to ask for help when they are depressed because they do not want to be seen as weak. But untreated depression is the number one cause for suicide, so those who are depressed and do not seek help are at risk for suicide. So what can be done?
Here are some tips that I think can help. If you are in a leadership position and in the military, I urge you to get to know your soldiers. Do any of your soldiers have financial or marital problems? Is your single solider lonely? Do you see changes in someone’s work patterns, activities or personality? Knowing these soldiers personally can help you see their probable dark times and head them off with activities, someone to talk to or professional help (the chaplains, MFLCs, family support center staff, first sergeant or other support services). These are your friends, your co-workers, your family, your team and they are your responsibility.
For military spouses make friends and be there for them, build up those relationships, because some of them might not have the same resources or strong will as you. If that is the case, get to know them well enough that you can see the warning signs and be strong enough to ask if they are thinking about hurting themselves and as hard as it is tell someone else if they are. Everyone has bad days now and then but do you know the signs of depression? If you do become depressed, call the doctor, it is a reason maybe physical such as a hormone imbalance or mental (your solider just deployed, or you had a change in the family). See a therapist. Depression needs to be treated. It is an illness, and just like ALL illnesses, it needs treatment. Do not think that you can treat depression by yourself — that is like trying to treat a broken arm on your own.
So my advice to you is take care of yourself first. Make sure that you get help when you need it. Also make sure that you get to know your battle buddies who you are serving with whether you are the one left behind in a deployment or you are deployed. Just say more than hello, open up to others, and they will open up to you. I believe you should always make yourself available to others. Do not let any person be an island, include others in conversations and activities. Reach out. And when someone does have a serious problem or becomes depressed, make sure that they get help.