You’ve probably seen your Facebook and Instagram walls plastered with the #22PUSHUPCHALLENGE videos. If you haven’t then Google it. The idea behind it is a good one, and that is, to raise awareness for military veterans who return from war and commit suicide. On average in America, 22 veterans and 1 active service member take their lives each day.
When it comes to killing Australian soldiers, suicide is the number one cause. In the 13 year war in Afghanistan the number of Australian’s killed numbered 42. According to this article in The Australian, in 2016 alone there have been 41 Australian Defence Force suicides. Although unconfirmed, I’ve heard talk of 3 more since that article was written on the 14th August 2016.
In 2010 I deployed to Afghanistan as a medic. On our 9 month rotation 6 soldiers from our battle-group were sent home having been killed in action. Since then a further 6 soldiers from that same group have taken their own lives.
Since East Timor in 1999, some 249 soldiers are known to have committed suicide. That means for Australian Defence Force personnel you’re ~5 times more likely to take your own life than be killed in active combat.
In light of these tragic and abhorrent statistics, is ‘awareness raising’ really doing anything of substance? Or does more need to be done? Sure, raising awareness is a step in the right direction, maybe even an essential step on the pathway to reform, but what can we do now? What can you do now?
- Educate yourself on this topic. Research and know the statistics. Learn about the struggles that soldiers go through when assimilating back into the Australian culture after being in a combat zone. Teach yourself about PTSD and Moral Injury and find out why they’re so debilitating. Put aside 15 minutes to follow and read some of the links to articles in this blog post.
- Prepare yourself to encounter someone who is contemplating suicide.
What will you do? How will you respond? With mental illness being such a prevalent part of our society it’s more than likely that you’ll be close to someone who struggles in this area.
- Check out, and support groups that actively support veterans in this area.
Soldier On, Mates 4 Mates, and Young Diggers… are a few amongst many. You could also look at and follow the Australian Veterans Suicide Register on Facebook. Better than just checking these groups out, your could offer money or even time to support these groups and the countless numbers of veterans who flock to them.
- Finally, if you’re person who prays… pray.
Pray for the well-being of those who have fought for your well-being. Pray that God would intervene in life threatening situations, creating a path out of distress and despair. Pray that God would rescue broken soldiers to himself in miraculous ways. Pray that God would give you a heart for the hurting and the lost. Pray that God would heal and restore the mental stability that, for many soldiers, was sacrificed for our nation.