Veterans Share Personal Stories for Suicide Prevention

Photo courtesy of DCoE website.

Personal stories are an effective way to illustrate an issue. September is “Suicide Prevention Awareness Month” and the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs made a call for veterans to tell their stories.

From the Defense Centers of Excellence, the following story is shared by Army veteran Micheal K. Strong. In May, he participated in the 2011 Warrior Games on the U.S. Paralympic Team.

My name is Micheal K. Strong, and I survived.

I don’t ever remember wanting to hurt myself. Although, looking back on everything, it was kind of hard to ignore the warning signs. I was even trained as the company suicide prevention NCO. I was always the soldier that had the “Suck it up, and drive on” mentality. That doesn’t always work or fit everyone.

I was becoming more reclusive and withdrawn. I had sought help through the chaplain, and I was feeling better. I remember feeling hopeless and not seeing anything in my future. On July 15, 2009 I shot myself through the face. I don’t remember doing it, but I can remember every detail when I came to from being knocked out, until they put me to sleep in the Emergency Room.

Looking back on everything now, I would have to say the most important thing in my life is perception. Life brings all different types of up and downs, but it is how we perceive situations. No matter how bad or how grim something seems, there is always a small sliver of hope… it is how we perceive the situation that makes it all seem hopeless.

I was a helicopter mechanic, and it shouldn’t have happened to me. I should have been more willing to seek the help I needed, the same help I was afraid would ruin my career or “black-ball” me. I realize now, life has countless things to offer and experience.

I was ultimately diagnosed with PTSD and severe depression. During my recovery and transition to medical retirement I discovered that I had a unique perspective on this issue, and I have since devoted myself to helping others get help and trying to break down the overwhelming stigma surrounding mental health that prevents so many from seeking help. Military members are expected to shoulder many hard and difficult things, and many sometimes haven’t yet learned how to deal with some of those things… just knowing that it is acceptable to ask for help or to open up and talk about it is very important.

Not every story will be published, however the Defense Centers of Excellence is accepting submissions through the end of September.  Click here to submit your story.

Submissions should be:

  • Free of personal identifiable information (please do not include real names in the story)
  • Written in a clear, conversational tone
  • Between 300 and 700 words in length
  • Comply with the DCoE comment policy

If you or someone you know are currently having thoughts of suicide, call 1-800-273-TALK, military community option 1.

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