can go. So here we go first question. PTSD with suciadal thoughts were does someone turn to get help? 2nd question is the idea in turning to get help has a fear factor to it with most people that they will be thrown in a psych ward for 72 hours for evaluation 10-13 or criminal charges might be brought to them. In that case the idea of maybe loosing a job or having a title lached onto them that they tried and might be used against them at a later time would put most in fear in seeking help. How do you change the perception? I would consider this part the core of the issue and this would be the first step in this to make a differnce. Let me set the record as well straight here as well most people do not want to say what I just did due to them seeming insensitive. Without questions like this and answers to these questions there can not be solutions. So just to pick brains here figured I would ask. What I think you are doing here is great Ken!
Hi Chris thank you for the questions; you are not being inconsiderate. This is actually what I love; it doesn’t harm the cause; it opens it up. I am glad to see others are thinking. In fact I have engaged many in this very line of thought for several years all across the country; more than 25,000 soldiers and civilians from MI Command Conference in DC to Army MED COM Conference in Florida and as far away as Camp Parks, CA. We are also engaged in raising awareness within the faith community and with all others who are willing to engage. On our website we have links to resources that address the issues of PTSD with suicidal thoughts. There is a huge body of research that indicates there is a correlation between many types of trauma and suicidal behaviors; PTSD is one of them.
While we are on the subject of PTSD, let me just say that for some there is the idea that only deployed soldiers suffer from PTSD. For years I refused to think that I had PTSD because my stressors were not related to wearing the uniform. But PTSD is not the exclusive domain of the military. A woman who has been raped, a child who has been molested, a man who has seen his father murdered at the age of 10; these are just of the cases I have worked with over the past few months. None had anything to do with war. War is just the “icing on the cake”. My own Post Traumatic Stress was not one event, but cumulative over several years that culminated in witnessing an explosion in my backyard that burned my son over 90% of his arms and half his face. He had to be air-lifted to Grady burn center. Believe me it’s not the way to make the front page of the local newspaper. The additional stressor being that at the time I was between jobs and the medical bills bankrupted me. It was the most challenging time in my life. But it is also the reason I do what I do now.
At Armed Forces Mission we have done Courageous Weekend Retreats with veterans; all of them having some form of PTSD. During the retreat we discussed the concept of Moral Injury (MI) which is not in the DSM for Mental Health Professionals, but is a very real condition. If PTSD is the scrambling of the mind with it's 100 billion neurons, then MI might be called the breaking of the heart. MI is what happens when an individual sees, does or knows about an action that violates their personal moral code.
In layman's terms PTSD could be described as "Fight, Flight, or Freeze" syndrome. I was walking into Walmart one day in PTC. A young man in his mid 20s was coming out the door. Suddenly a car backfired and the man hit the asphalt. I discovered in talking with him that he was a veteran. Another veteran I worked with was awakened every night by the two children that were killed in a fire fight in Iraq. Did he have PTSD? Absolutely. He also had Moral Injury. Through the Courageous Project weekends we seek to re-frame the voices. By opening up without fear of getting a 1013 and 72 hours under suicide watch, these individuals are able to find a safe place for processing the brokenness. As one colleague calls it; "Moral injury is about heart and soul repair."
As for the stigma that one might loose their job; yes there is that fear for some. I have seen it in the covert messages of NCOs when they tell soldiers how to complete their annual health readiness assessments. Within law enforcement we see the same issue and it is a stigma within the general population as well. I can only speak from personal experience, but as I have mentioned, I have shared my story publicly in various settings and have not been forced against my will into the "psych ward". Additionally, out of the 151 suicide intervention that I conducted in 2015 only three were placed under 72 hour watch, the remainder sought on their own to make contact with the resources we referenced or they continued to work with me through pastoral care and other chaplain support services.
I truly do understand the thoughts you raise that some will not seek help because of the fear of loosing their job, I just don't think it is the "core issue". The reason 1495 people perished when the Titanic sank is not because they weren't screaming for help, but rather it was because they had no one who could help them. When help finally arrived it was for many too late. As I see it the core issue is that very caring individuals don't know how to help. I have pastors calling me every month asking for my help with someone in their congregation. I have surveyed pastors in church leadership conferences; nearly 100% say they received NO training in suicide intervention. Yet basic skills in suicide intervention and mental health first aid can be learned; just as CPR skills can be learned. The big difference is that you are 20 times more likely to come across someone who needs the suicide intervention skills than you are the person who needs CPR. (a statistical reality).
In 2012 and 13 we were heavily focused on the training of individuals in Fayette County. In that year suicide dropped to a 20 year low and was 50% lower than the previous year. I was personally involved in several interventions that year in the county as were many of the people we trained. The level of awareness went up for the 300 individuals we trained. The next two years I was on the road most of the time and spent very little time in my own backyard. Some would say the numbers are an anomaly. But the reason I have made the decision to come back to a focus on my hometown is because I want to prove that it was not an anomaly. I believe that training saves lives.
The first place where perception needs to change is not with those who are hurting, but with those who can help. The higher we raise the banner and the more courageous we became in asking the suicide question; the more lives we will save. I have seen it in my own circles and in the stories that come from the more than 4,000 individuals we have trained. Chris I need battle buddies like you, who are not afraid to ask the questions. You can help me raise an army of people who will boldly come on board in support of a mission that is making a difference.
I use to call it the impossible mission; there will always be someone somewhere who is thinking of suicide and ultimately ends their life. My vision is that it doesn't happen on my watch, in my town and among those I love and live life with everyday.
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Kenneth Koon, on a mission to build resilience in self and others.