As you know, in recent weeks we have seen social distancing become the new norm, as many of us find ourselves in quarantine or under strict shelter-in-place orders. The ways in which so many of our lives have drastically changed have left many with feelings of uncertainty, anxiety and restlessness.
At a time when we are all worried about our own families – and rightfully so – I want to remind everyone that we must also remember to reach out to those who may need it most. This includes our veteran population, particularly those already suffering from post-traumatic stress (PTS) and other mental health conditions.
The feelings of loneliness and isolation, which a number of Americans may be experiencing for the first time in their lives at such heightened levels, are unfortunately all too familiar for many of our veterans living with PTS. With the onset of COVID-19 and the precautions that we all must take in order to stay safe, these feelings of loneliness and isolation have the potential to become elevated to new extremes.
Please consider the reality that our country’s veterans are already facing:
- The veteran suicide rate is 1.5 times the national average
- An average of 20 veteran suicides occur daily
- About 70% of veterans who take their lives did not receive mental health services available at VA Hospitals
My intent in sharing these statistics is not to be negative or pessimistic. Quite the opposite. I hope sharing these statistics with you will help paint a more complete picture and incite a sense of urgency regarding what is at stake for many of our country’s veterans. I am optimistic that sharing this information will encourage others to reach out to veterans in need and possibly even provide a much-needed sense of comfort during these difficult times.
Here are just a few ways that you can reach out to veterans who may be struggling:
- Call or video chat to check-in to see how they are feeling. Social media and email are other great ways to reach out. If all else fails, write an old-fashioned letter and even include photographs and artwork to let someone know you are thinking of them.
- If your state’s guidelines allow and it is safe to do so, visit someone from outside their window or even on their front lawn or driveway while maintaining appropriate social distance. Spend time talking with them to check-in on their wellbeing.
- Based on your state’s recommended guidelines, if you are able, make yourself an available resource beyond just being there to talk – volunteer to pick-up groceries, medication & medical supplies; mow the lawn, retrieve mail etc.
- If you are in a state that still allows leaving the house for reasons other than just picking up groceries and medications, offer to take a walk on a nature trail while maintaining six feet apart and use the time to touch base to see how the other person is doing.
The bottom line is, it’s important that we are checking-in on those veterans already struggling with PTS and other mental health conditions, while observing safety measures to ensure that we all remain physically healthy. Checking-in on our veterans to lend a listening ear or a helping hand today could very well impact the way the statistics above look tomorrow.