Pick Your Poison
By Jim Kuiken
Dude! What a downer!! This is so depressing!
Life can’t always be butterflies and pretty flowers. Sometimes we have to look at the ugly to see the truth, even if we don’t want to. It would be so much easier to wear blinders and just “be happy”.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the sky is falling, and I don’t want you to walk around in a major depressive state – it’s just that if we don’t look at bad stuff, we can’t fix (or help with) it.
Here’s what my week looked like last week:
So, what am I talking about? Pretty much the same thing I talk about a lot, but this time, from the tough side. Who am I talking about when I say homelessness, incarceration or death… pick your poison?
Military / Veterans, and First Responders (Fire, Law Enforcement, EMS).
But even those two groups are different… I know, I was both a career military (now veteran), and a first responder (firefighter / EMT, and later, career law enforcement).
While first responders suffer from depression, anxiety, PTS(d), and suicide, their numbers of homelessness and incarceration are much lower – on par with or slightly lower than the general population.
The reason veterans not only have the suicide issue, but also a much higher (percentage wise) incidence of homelessness and incarceration than not only first responders, but the general population, is because first responders don’t leave society. They remain in it, and are trained to identify and confront issues, and find a way to contain or peacefully resolve those issues – and in the case of law enforcement, to use force as a last resort.
Military, on the other hand, are separated from society, ingrained with the military mind-set and culture, and are specifically trained to “locate, close with and destroy the enemy”. They are taught to destroy and kill the enemy in combat, and those who are not in combat are there to support those who are, and further the mission of protecting us by dominating and destroying the enemy. Different mind-set and mission.
Unfortunately, that does not translate well when they come back and “re-enter” society. There are many reasons and issues, such as employment/employability, readjustment issues, PTS(d), etc., etc… but what it boils down to is that there are a significantly higher percentage of suicides, homelessness and incarceration (and the incarceration of veterans involves a higher rate of violent offenses than the non-veteran inmate… no real surprise there, given the issues the veterans are dealing with vice the basic criminality of the other inmates).
So what are those rates? Here (imbedded in the following links) are some resources to help you see the numbers:
So… all that is very depressing. It’s hard to look at. Hard to imagine someone who was once a bright youngster all ready to step up and serve, to protect their way of life, country, and fellow citizens – who is now sleeping on a steam vent and asking for your change – so easy to look away and walk around, feeling uneasy. Or who is sitting in jail or a prison, more than half the time for a violent offense. Or who just quits, and “checks out”. Devastating their family by committing suicide – losing the fight with those dark demons they brought back with them.
But – it’s harder to live (or die) as one of them. As one of us…
So, here’s the choice. Walk around them. Leave them “where they belong” in prison or jail. Go on with our lives. So many people die every day, but it doesn’t really have anything to do with us unless it directly affects our life.
– Or –
Engage! Find something you’re interested in or even enjoy, and spend some time on that issue. There are so many wonderful organizations and people out there that anyone can find something that speaks to them. It doesn’t have to be depressing! I can be very rewarding, and sometimes, even fun!
Each year we go on a fishing trip with Hearts For Heroes, and have a blast! There is the Fine Earth Adventure Race if you like cross-country races, food and music! Seas The Day. Mountain Outfitters. Hunting, camping, social mixers… or even raising puppies (like my daughter, who fosters rescue dogs to become service dogs), etc., etc!
There are tons and tons of meaningful organizations and groups where you can participate, volunteer, or if you’re too short of time, donate! Advocate! Or just reach out to someone you know who might be having a hard time, and let them know you’re there…
You CAN be the one who makes a difference in someone’s life – and while you’re doing that, your own!