Army Suicide Prevention: Faith and Counseling Help

By Penny Monetti:

Military life presents unique marital challenges for the warrior and his or her family in an already stress-ridden society, but many army suicide casualties can be prevented.

 

Called to Serve, by Penny and Tony Monettii offers encouragement to soldiers and their families.

Called to Serve, by Penny and Tony Monettii offers encouragement to soldiers and their families.

My family looked forward to attending my son’s first Army Christmas party this last December. After 24 years as an Air Force pilot’s spouse, I was looking forward to observing a different military branch, meeting my son’s Army unit, and being the party guest instead of the party planner.

It was time to relax. During our military years, I helped organize holiday parties: From bases spanning from America’s heartland to the deep South. From New York to California’s coast. All the way to bases located in Europe. For weeks, my son, Antonio, verified that no commitments or unexpected time conflicts would interfere with us attending his first Army holiday gathering. He was excited that his dad, a B-2 stealth bomber pilot, would meet his fellow Army reservists and commanders.

When we pulled into the base parking lot for the awaited festive day, Antonio met us with apprehension. His normal ruddy complexion was ghostly pale, and he had a forlorn look that will be forever ingrained in my memory. He shared the devastating news.

Someone at the base had taken his own life just the day before.

Unfortunately, this military unit’s suicide is not an isolated incident. A 2010 report indicated that an average of eighteen military veterans committed suicide daily (Maize, 2010). The number of suicides among US Army active duty and Reserve personnel in 2012 was higher than the total combined military fatalities from Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan over the same time frame (Burke, 2012).

Military life presents unique marital challenges for the warrior and his or her family in an already stress-ridden society, such as: Deployments, dangerous missions, reintegration into family, civilian, and college life after separations, numerous relocations, and post-traumatic stress to name a few. Depression can be the fall out from any of these challenges.

Unless you’ve experienced the darkness of depression, you cannot relate to its vice-like grip it seemingly holds on the afflicted person’s life, whether you are affiliated with the military or a civilian.

If you or someone you know has expressed suicidal thoughts, do not ignore the warning signs, hoping they will disappear on their own. Seek immediate professional guidance, but before locating help, submit your challenges to the Lord and ask for His guidance to finding counsel. Know that before you begin this journey you are not alone:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9.

Depression is a very real enemy, but the Lord reassures us:

“The one who is in you  (The Holy Spirit) is greater than the one (Satan) who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4.

The Lord further strengthens us with the promise:

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart because I have overcome the world.” 1 John 16:33.

Notice that the Lord makes clear that the indwelling spirit triumphs over evil. So how do we get this internal protector to abide within us?

It’s actually extremely simple. We invite the Lord into our lives by confessing that we are sinners and believing that Jesus is the Son of God, He died on the cross, and rose from the dead to save us from our own sins. This belief assures us eternal life in heaven.

What have you got to lose? Perhaps you don’t buy into the whole Jesus will save me if I say those words idea, but you long to. You can take comfort knowing that you are not alone in your doubt. Some of the Biblical “greats” struggled to believe God’s promises, as well. John the Baptist, who fiercely preached that Jesus was the Messiah, doubted his own declaration when he was at his lowest.

While imprisoned in the foul atmosphere of a dark gloomy dungeon fortress tucked within the savage cliffs of Moab, John doubted Christ as the true Messiah. John, who formerly held the firmest convictions that Jesus Christ was the true Savior, wavered in His conviction. After all, Jesus was not performing as John expected. This prophet was not axing the trees, winnowing the field, and judging the unrighteous. He was gentle of spirit, humble, and forgiving. So he asked two disciples to simply ask Jesus if he were truly the Messiah or should they expect another.

Instead of rendering a yes or no answer, Jesus asked the disciples to convey to John the awesome wonders that they witnessed: The blind could now see. The lame could walk. Leper’s infected flesh was cleansed.  The down trodden were uplifted. Jesus then continued to praise John. He didn’t ridicule him for his doubt, but explained those doing God’s work would be persecuted whether they dined with tax collectors or ate locusts from the land.

If you doubt God’s power and feel God has not lived up to your expectations, you are in good company; however, get ready, because once you invite God into your heart and submit your challenges to Him, you will be spiritually awakened, shaken, and claimed as God’s adopted child. You will begin to experience that God works all things for His purpose in your life, even the bad stuff. (Romans 8:28)

Sinking to a low point in life can cause doubt in Christ and imprison you in the wretched pit of depression’s confinement. If this depression remains unaddressed, it can lead to suicide, but once you acknowledge your doubts, confess them to God, and make healing your new mission, there is nothing that can stop the restoration process. Roman 8: 38-39 promises:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons neither the present nor the future, nor any powers neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Remember, you are not alone. God is waiting for you to reach out to Him from your place of despair where the enemy is holding you captive.

“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; He drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy.”  Psalm 18: 16-17.

There are some great military sources to help you or your loved one overcome depression. Military OneSource provides FREE online counseling and will pay for 12 counseling visits that will not transferred to military health records. Focus on the Family will help you  find a Christian counselor in your area:

To get immediate help, call the Military Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 and press 1, or chat online now for 24/7 access to trained counselors. www.wingmanproject.org is another organization to help military veterans combat this very real enemy.