Suicide prevention tips for veterans

Suicide prevention tips for veterans

Suicide prevention tips for veterans


Some peer-support tips for preventing veteran suicides

SARASOTA — In an acknowledgment of the suicide virus sweeping the ranks of America’s military veterans, Goodwill Manasota last month joined a national support group designed to get veterans from the same community to talk to each other. And as a result of painful experience, its founder is offering some guidelines to mitigate the epidemic.

In 2013, Janine Lutz discovered the body of her son Johnny, a Marine who saw combat in Afghanistan, in his bedroom at their home in Broward County. Although his prescription-drug overdose was intentional, and the Klonopin he received from the Department of Veterans Affairs is associated with suicidal ideation, Lutz will always wonder how the outcome might’ve been different if Johnny had been able to lean on a fellow veteran or two.

The following year, she formed a nonprofit called Lutz Buddy Up in hopes of getting veterans to form peer-support relationships. The group now counts four chapters, the latest being run by Goodwill Manasota’s Veterans Services office in Sarasota.

Lutz offers several bits of advice to those on the edge, or those who can see it coming. Some pointers may be easier to adhere to than others:

• Connect with a veteran. Civilian counselors may have valid insights, but they are no substitute for peers who’ve endured similar experiences. If you hear voices in your head telling you to go dark, that’s when you need your buddy.

• Make a list of mood triggers, e.g., crowds or loud noises, and share them with friends and family. Recognizing cause and effect helps everyone prepare for, address and accommodate what might seem like illogical behavior.

• Itemize key trigger dates — a lost friend’s birthday, a shattering event, etc. — and enter them on a calendar; otherwise, you could find yourself in a hole without knowing why. Marking those dates gives you time to recognize and prepare psychologically for what you’re up against.

• Share those dates with family and friends, perhaps up to six weeks out. Isolation during those milestones can exacerbate the trauma. Connect with peers or friends you trust. Plan an activity to direct your attention onto a positive focus.

• Stop or reduce your alcohol consumption and detoxify. Make healthier food choices. Exercise, meditate, practice yoga. Try keeping a journal. And quit beating yourself up. What matters is how you manage the rest of your life.

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