By Victoria L. Kidd
Most of us have, at least on some level, an awareness about the extremely high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicidal thoughts among veterans returning from duty or otherwise dealing with experiences occurring during their service. Similarly, first responders—including police, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians (EMTs)—are routinely subjected to traumatic events.
A 2015 article appearing in Veterans Today, a journal for military personnel and their families, states that many sources relay a startling assertion concerning the rate of PTSD and suicide among service members (http://bit.ly/1KWb1GS). It states that an average of 22 veterans take their lives every day in the U.S., a rate that is 50% higher than the rate of nonmilitary civilians. (As awareness of the needs of first responders has only recently started to grow, there is limited open-source information available concerning the rate of suicide and PTSD among individuals in that category, although there is evidence to support claims that the rate of suicide among these individuals is equally troubling.)
A local event in September seeks to open an honest dialogue about PTSD and suicide while providing resources and support to those who are most at risk to be affected by suicide and the life-long impact of PTSD. The event, titled Hope = Help Public Forum and Information Exchange, will be held at Clarke County High School, located at 627 Mosby Blvd in Berryville. It is being hosted by the VFW and the VFW Auxiliary (to VFW Post 9760).
The VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) and its affiliated VFW Auxiliary seeks to serve area veterans and their families through various programs and opportunities for fellowship. (The upcoming forum is one such program, while other activities can be reviewed by visiting www.vfwaux9760.org.)
The forum will provide attendees a chance to hear from health care professionals, mental health support agencies, and law enforcement representatives who are familiar with the specific challenges facing veterans and first responders. This panel of experts will talk about the signs and symptoms of PTSD, available treatment options, resources to consider, and other related matters.
Suicide, which often results from an individual’s long-term struggle with PTSD, will be discussed. Suicide prevention concepts and the personal recovery process for individuals who have lost a loved one to suicide (as well as ways to help those experiencing a loss as a result of suicide) will be discussed in detail.
The event is free and open to the public. According to a recent release from the organization’s executive officer, President Patricia “Pat” Dickinson, “If you are a veteran or first responder, or if you are the family member or friend of one, then this event is of particular importance to you.”
The doors will open at 10am, and the forum itself starts at 10:30am. Attendees are invited to enjoy lunch while learning more about local agencies and organizations serving and supporting veterans, first responders, and the community at a small expo immediately following the event. Individuals requiring more information should email firstname.lastname@example.org. Attending will be educational, but it may also provide insight and information that could help you to save a life or improve the quality of life for someone struggling with PTSD.