The reports of six Canadian veterans, including the death of twenty year old, Leona MacEachern of suicide, deeply troubled me. The media surmised that their despair was caused by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which was caused by experiencing the horror of military service. PSTD and suicide are often paired; too often!
Child of a Veteran
As a child of a war veteran, I experienced some of the aftermath of war. My Dad, Ted McLaughlin served in WWII, came home, married his pre-war sweetheart, and fathered four children. I am the oldest. Dad never spoke of the war until his senior years. But our growing years were terrorized by his nightmare screams, anger outbursts, and physical smacks, whacks, and kicks.
Our aunts and uncles would whisper, “It’s because he was in the war, you know.” All I knew was that I wanted to leave home and did so at 19-years-old. But as I matured, learned, and healed some of my own drama, I developed compassion for Dad. I became convinced he had undiagnosed PTSD. Back in the 1950s and 1960s no one ever thought of therapy or recovery, even if it existed.
My mother and our whole family had no idea how to respond to my father’s out-of-control behavior. As far as we know, Dad never had ideas of suicide.
If your loved one’s PTSD is creating suicidal ideation, please take action.
What to Do if You Suspect Suicide
If you suspect your loved one is considering suicide here are some basic help steps:
- If they say they are thinking of suicide. Believe them. Do not take chances.
- If you are suspect of suicide, ask! Yes, ask, “Are you thinking of killing yourself?”
- Ask, “How are you planning to do it?” It is a warning signal if the details and the means are in place. Assess if you need to intervene. Again, don’t take chances if you fear danger, call 911!
- Regardless the initial conversation, reach out to access professional help.
Today’s good news is that we know much more about the management of extreme stress, anxiety, and PTSD. EMDR was developed by Francine Shapiro who while working with American veterans discovered how she could collapse the highly emotional reaction to triggers created during trauma inducing incidents. EMDR has also been proven to be effective with those suffering from car accidents, childhood abuse, bullying, anxiety and phobias. As an EMDR practitioner, I have seen first anxiety and trauma calm.
A few years ago a representative from Veterans Affairs called me to ask permission to use my 25 question quiz, Score Your Resilience. Of course, I said yes.
Veterans Affairs Canada
Regrettably, my understanding from media reports is that Veterans Affairs Canada does not have adequate resources for those who require treatment. Why our government is not more readily responding to the crisis is baffling. But, as described above, there are options and possibilities.
Veterans Affairs has a list of resources, mostly information, on its website. For those who want to become more informed it includes how to provide suicide prevention, a free Wellness Kit, and information on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
If you suspect that you or someone you know has experienced a life-altering and traumatic event please access any and all supports available in your community. Start by calling your local distress centre. In Calgary, Alberta it is 403-266-4357.
Please check out this related Blog:
Book Summary: Getting Past Your Past: Take Control of Your Life with Self-Help Techniques from EMDR