Les Patterson’s Monday Morning Boost: Suicide Still Hurts

  • Sheldon Loveless in Iraq on his second tour. Photo courtesy of Tom Crocker.

    I don’t know what to say, but I hope and pray you’ll listen.

    Suicide hurts

    Especially when it’s your brother.

    You cry.

    You ache.

    You asked why.

    You ask questions for which there are no answers.

    Why did this happen?

    What could I have done?

    Should I have done more?

    A range of emotions and feelings wreak havoc with your soul.

    Love.

    Anger.

    Helplessness.

    Band of Brothers

    Sheldon Loveless was a fellow soldier in the Utah Army National Guard. We deployed to Iraq together in 2004. We didn’t work directly together, nor did we know each other well. Yet, he was a brother in arms, one of the Boys of Bravo Battery.

    We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

    For he to-day that sheds his blood with me

    Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,

    This day shall gentle his condition;

    St. Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V (1599) by William Shakespeare

    The Boys of Bravo Battery in Kirkuk, Iraq, late summer 2005. Photo: Bravo Battery.

    The Boys of Bravo Battery were a band of brothers, and many of them, plus many from his current unit, came to remember Sheldon at his memorial service on Saturday.

    Stories were shared, tears were shed, and questions asked.

    One of Sheldon’s longtime best friends, Torrie Tabbal, was also a fellow soldier. They played together as kids, and fought together in combat. Torrie called him “his brother.”

    While I didn’t know Sheldon well, I do remember his mischievous smile as if he was silently saying, “I know something you don’t know.” This last week I’ve wondered about the millions of thoughts behind that smile that we’ll never understand.

    Invisible scars

    Sheldon spent two years in Iraq on two separate tours. As Chaplain Tim Clayson said at the service on Saturday, “Two times he served our country and bore the scars of that sacrifice.”

    Sheldon’s scars were not physical. He wasn’t missing a limb, nor did he have obvious disabilities. But the scars were still there, and they were still very real.

    Invisible scars are the hardest to treat. When a soldier is wounded, doctors and specialists do all in their power to fix and heal. Yet, visible reminders are often present. This is not the case with scars that exist only on the inside.

    Whether officially diagnosed as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) or TBI (traumatic brain injury), the way the brain responds to traumatic events is real and make take years to manifest.

    Recognize the Signs

    According to the Veterans Crisis Line, “many Veterans may not show any signs of intent to harm themselves before doing so, but some actions can be a sign that a Veteran needs help. Veterans in crisis may show behaviors that indicate a risk of harming themselves.

    Veterans who are considering suicide often show signs of depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and/or hopelessness, such as:

    • Appearing sad or depressed most of the time
    • Clinical depression: deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating—that doesn’t go away or continues to get worse
    • Feeling anxious, agitated, or unable to sleep
    • Neglecting personal welfare, deteriorating physical appearance
    • Withdrawing from friends, family, and society, or sleeping all the time
    • Losing interest in hobbies, work, school, or other things one used to care about
    • Frequent and dramatic mood changes
    • Expressing feelings of excessive guilt or shame
    • Feelings of failure or decreased performance
    • Feeling that life is not worth living, having no sense of purpose in life
    • Talk about feeling trapped—like there is no way out of a situation
    • Having feelings of desperation, and saying that there’s no solution to their problems

    Their behavior may be dramatically different from their normal behavior, or they may appear to be actively contemplating or preparing for a suicidal act through behaviors such as:

    • Performing poorly at work or school
    • Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities—seemingly without thinking
    • Showing violent behavior such as punching holes in walls, getting into fights or self-destructive violence; feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge
    • Looking as though one has a “death wish,” tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving fast or running red lights
    • Giving away prized possessions
    • Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, and/or making out a will
    • Seeking access to firearms, pills, or other means of harming oneself

    If you are a Veteran or know a Veteran who is showing any of the above warning signs, please call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, chat online, or send a text message today to 838255.

    Suicide still hurts

    I don’t know what pain Sheldon was feeling. I don’t know what hurt was so painful that he felt he had no other option. I don’t know the answer to the question we always ask when suicide happens – Why???

    But I do know this.

    We can make a difference. We can be better friends. We can show more love. We can reach out more. Most importantly, we can pay more attention to what’s going on around us. We get so busy at times with our own life, it becomes hard to see the challenges others are facing, sometimes even those closest to us.

    I realize we can do all this, and much more, and suicides will still happen. But I promise your efforts will make a difference. The path to suicide starts long before the actual act. Consistent efforts to reach out and be a good friend will make a difference.

    Talking About It Matters

    There are many resources to help if you, or someone you care about, are experiencing thoughts of suicide. The best resource is talking about. Please take a minute to read and watch this public service announcement about talking with Veterans –

    Talking About It Matters: http://youtu.be/_tKqc1Gi0iM

    “Talking to Veterans about the real issues they’re dealing with can be awkward and uncomfortable. We think to ourselves, “I never served, how could I understand? They’ll talk about it when they’re ready…” and then we wonder why they don’t want to talk. But when their behavior changes, when they withdraw to themselves, increase substance use, or even talk about hurting themselves…it’s time to act. Because if we don’t, our families and relationships will suffer. Ask the hard questions, listen to the Veterans in your life, and show you care. Make the call. It matters. When you recognize a Veteran is in crisis, call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online at www.VeteransCrisisLine.net, or text 838255.”

    Talking about it matters – to Veterans, to teenagers, to family members, to coworkers, to friends.

    Resources

    IAVA Clay Hunt act

    http://iava.org/savact/

    Veterans Crisis Line

    http://veteranscrisisline.net/

    1-800-273-TALK (8255)

    Suicide Prevention Hotline

    http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

    1-800-273-TALK (8255)

    Hazelden – Preventing teen suicide

    http://www.hazelden.org/web/public/prevent_teen_suicide.page

    Talking about it Matters.

    Have a great Monday. Thanks for letting me share.

    Les Patterson

    p.s. Take 13 minutes today to pay more attention, reach out, and make a difference. Talking about it matters.

    Les Patterson loves to share stories and the “Monday Morning Boost” is his way of sharing a story or two with family, friends, and clients. Les believes every person, business and organization has a story worth sharing. Since 1997 he has enjoyed finding compelling ways to share those stories through writing and producing radio commercials at the Cache Valley Media Group. Discover how he can help tell your story at www.CacheValleyMediaGroup.com. Feedback and comments are welcome at les@cvradio.com. ©2016, Les Patterson. All Rights Reserved. To UNSUBSCRIBE, reply to this email with UNSUBSCRIBE in the subject line and your email will be removed.