Houston, TX – September is Suicide Prevention Month. Everywhere health awareness news is focusing on the growing suicide pandemic caused by the social isolation of COVID-19 stay-at-home and social-distancing orders, financial losses and other traumas. The widespread depression and often overwhelming hopelessness worsen post-traumatic stress (PTSD), foisting it into the limelight as a tragic reason too many Americans take their lives in desperation.
Nowhere is PTSD more prevalent than among Veterans, First Responders and their families. With multiple chapters in each of twelve states and growing, The Birdwell Foundation for PTSD is unique in its rapid personal response and one-on-one services that have proven to transform, restore and save lives.
A close personal connection with someone who understands and has been there can provide the last lifeline. Birdwell operates through Veterans and First Responders who have found their way out of the darkness, broken free from the bondage of PTSD, and are now boots-on-the-ground assisting fellow brothers and sisters through life issues caused by PTSD.
The problem is more pervasive than most people realize. PTSD is the deadliest wound of war. It is the root cause of most Veteran suicides. Direct intervention is needed to stem the alarming tide of a reported 22 Veteran suicides daily. Since only 22 of 50 states report, by extension the actual number could even be as high as 50 daily.
While the Vietnam Memorial Wall lists 58,195 names, there have been more than 210,000 Vietnam Veteran suicides reported. Of these, an estimated 90% to 95% are from PTSD. In Iraq and Afghanistan, too, the suicide rate has exceeded casualties from fighting. And this was all before 2020.
Today it’s worse. 40% of responders to a CDC survey this past summer reported struggling with mental health and/or substance abuse issues as a result of the extreme COVID-19 stay-at-home and social-distancing orders. And for those already suffering from PTSD symptoms, the block to vital social connectedness can be the final deadly straw.
The depth of despondency often goes even further. The military attracts many who have suffered Adverse Childhood Experiences. ACEs leave a deep, often buried, emotional wound that can burst open explosively when compounded with the effects of combat trauma, repeated gruesome exposure to tragedies, and now unbearable isolation.
Suicide is especially pandemic among Veterans over 55 who take that final desperate step at a far higher rate even than those returning from active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. And it’s not only combat Vets who suffer and may commit suicide, but many who served in other branches as well. Even stateside, including women suffering from military sexual trauma (MST).
First Responder PTSD suicides are also alarming at 10% higher than the general population. A 2015 national survey of 4,022 firefighters, police officers, EMS and emergency room workers found over 6% of those surveyed had attempted to take their lives.
There are no statistics for casualty rates among overwhelmed, depressed, confused and grieved spouses and children. But for every Veteran or First Responder who suffers from PTSD, a minimum of five family members are affected.
If the PTSD goes untreated, those close to the sufferer are highly likely to be diagnosed with secondary PTSD from the enormous responsibilities and helplessness a caregiver feels . . . or at times direct trauma from physical and mental abuse.
The children are often forgotten in these scenarios. They cannot make sense of this nightmare. Birdwell has mentors who provide love and support for children lost in confusion, pain and ACEs from what Mommy and Daddy are going through. They work to restore the children’s joy, lives and family and to prevent them from becoming future casualties of depression, PTSD, even death.
September suicide and PTSD awareness is a mission for the entire year. And so is the most effective response for those suffering or in crisis: restored peers helping those still in darkness. As Gene Birdwell, Founder of The Birdwell Foundation for PTSD, announces:
“No one heals alone. We are here to stop the pandemic rate of our soldiers’ and first responders’ suicides, and we need your help. If you or someone you know suffers with PTSD, call us today at 210-486-1639. Join our effort to stop the PTSD tragedy. See how you can help on www.birdwellfoundation.org .” Find out more online with hashtag #NoOneHealsAlone.
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