Q&A: Veterans Day with Vibrant Military and Veteran Programs Team
We asked our Vibrant Military and Veteran Programs Team to share thoughts for the upcoming Veterans Day holiday, specifically about working with and for the Service Member, Veteran, and Family (SMVF) population. Here are their responses:
Contributed by Dr. Kate Metro, Program Director; Gretchen Domek, Program Manager; Ryan Seymour, Program Manager: Standards, Training, and Practice; Jennifer Baker, Program Coordinator;
What got you into this line of work?
JB “I initially got into suicide prevention to serve people. I left after a while but was brought back by colleagues to help focus on this specific community because of how underserved they are.”
GD “I have a strong desire to understand the impact of trauma and provide support to those who have experienced it.”
KM “I started my post-doctorate work at the VA and fell in love with the SMVF population, which caused it to become my life’s mission to help.”
RS “I didn’t understand why so many military colleagues were dying by their own hands. I set out to learn, to get involved, and to see what I could do to be of service.”
What keeps you in this line of work?
JB “The loss of life – having lost loved ones to suicide and wanting to lessen that pain for other families. My firm belief is that anything can get better, and SPMI is very manageable if you have the right resources to support you.”
GD “It has been a great experience learning more about the SMVF population and helping the growing 988 community provide services to anyone in need.”
KM “There’s so much to be done. There are so many conflicts, things people aren’t aware of, and so many invisible people who need support. There is so much research to do, and so many needs need to be addressed. The rates are continuing, and we don’t have all the answers. We need to keep working diligently to find them.”
RS “If I am not serving them, who will? Like Isaiah said: “Here I am; send me.” (Isa. 6:8). The need is so great, and I’ve learned there are so many people working to end this tragedy. It affects so many, and we are all constantly learning how to be of better help. For me, It’s like a continuation of service, “soldiering on.” It has grown into something I never thought it would: an overall mission with smaller mission sets within it. It’s like fighting an enemy, trying to understand and develop tactics to defeat it, except this enemy takes out more of our service members and veterans than a physical one, and it’s not a simple victory.”
Why are you grateful to serve the Service Member, Veteran, and Family community?
JB “I was born into a family of many Service Members. I want to give back to this community as they’ve selflessly protected with unwavering bravery that I was never blessed with.”
GD “It is a privilege to work on this small team within a larger organization, focused on helping those who have given so much in service to our country.”
KM “Because they are prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice to defend our country and our freedoms – my freedoms. The way I see it, the least I can do is to be there to support them and help them adjust to life after service. In a way, it is my way of protecting them.”
RS “Because I know what it’s like to be a part of this community, and I understand them – it’s like serving family – all in the hope that perhaps something I do or contribute will be of service to someone else and demonstrate love. I’m grateful because it gives me continued purpose.”
Why do you think it’s so critical to support this community?
JB “This population is at most risk, and they have sacrificed so much already. I am determined to provide empathetic service to this community from a civilian place of gratitude.”
GD “I grew up in a family greatly impacted by my father’s service during the Vietnam War. Our SMVF population needs access to immediate and appropriate crisis services of their choice that can serve them.”
KM “This community has a different life experience than the rest of the population. Because of that, there needs to be specialized service to address specific circumstances unique to that experience.”
RS “This community has served in so many capacities others are unwilling, unfit, or incapable of doing. It is imperative to serve them, as they have served us … this is what community is about. These are the people who sign the blank check to risk everything that they are so that the ideals we cherish will survive, so that others may live so that others do not need to get in the dirt but would be protected. Brotherly love at its finest in our generation, deserving of our support. But, the degrees of the trauma are also incredibly great, and there is great pain under the surface for many. If we profess to care about suicide prevention, then we must be willing to understand, engage, and support this community since they are at some of the greatest risk for suicide in the world.”
With the escalation of conflict in the Middle East, how might it be triggering to this community and how could that affect their mental health?
A statement from the Vibrant Military and Veterans Programs team.
Every war is a continuation, in some form, of the last. Our families have to see the news and be concerned their loved one is about to get into a fight. Our Service Members are getting into a mental space of fighting, which is already a heightened stress response. Our Veterans are reminded of the war they were involved in and the experiences that come with that. We see the civilian casualties all over the news. Your Service Members and Veterans may feel powerless, that evil is winning, and more needs to be done, or that they may not be of use anymore to fight it.
The preparation orders, the triggering reminders, and the media coverage hit differently for those who are preparing to experience it potentially, who are experiencing it, who have experienced it, who feel connected to it personally, and those whose families are trying to prepare themselves for what could be.
War affects all of us, no matter who’s involved, and we are exhausted by it. Please check in with your loved ones. Reach out to someone if you need support. If you know a Service Member, Veteran, or the family of one, tell them you are thinking of them. Ask them how they are doing, and be prepared to listen and support them. This is far more meaningful in the grand scheme of things and far more impactful than a “Thank you for your service” statement. You are thanking them for their service by being there for them, even in what might seem a small way. “Thank you for your service” may come from a place of sincerity, and some Service Members, Veterans, and their families appreciate the acknowledgment, while others might not. But we are in the helping profession; we don’t operate in potentially hollow responses. It is far more loving to check in on someone truly and be a listener, even if it takes a small sacrifice of our time and energy.
Remember that this community has made extreme sacrifices; We can also make small ones for them.
If you know a Veteran, Service Member, or family member of one who is struggling right now, especially with thoughts of suicide, tell them about the Veterans and Military Crisis Line.
Give them the number. Show them the website. Initiate the call, chat, or text with them if they need the support to begin it. Dial 9-8-8, and press “1.” Caring, qualified responders at the Veterans Crisis Line are here to help.
For additional information and support please visit the Veterans and Military Crisis Line website: veteranscrisisline.net/get-help-now/military-crisis-line/