suicide among veterans

Grief has a way of coming through. Despite our social resolve to remain composed and pulled together, grief somehow finds an opening. Even if that opening is small and subtle, it’s important that grief gets expressed.

It is something I continue to be thankful for, because it keeps us honest and open. It reminds us it’s ok to be effected by the world. To be touched by acts of bravery and moments of great loss. Being effected keeps us connected.

The other day my friend David shared a powerful video on Facebook. I’ve added it below so you can check it out.

The video is from the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC and covers a developing story occurring in Washington DC this week. Currently there is a bill being proposed to give $22 million in funding to support programs in the US that focus on suicide prevention for veterans. As you might know, the rate of suicide for returning vets keeps growing. Right now the number is 22 suicides a day.

22 a day.

The resources to support these individuals is relatively sparse. With more cases of PTSD and other issues presenting themselves on a daily basis, there simply is not enough therapeutic support to manage the numbers. There is a need to add more funding to train therapists and have more available to handle the growing numbers, especially in areas of the country that have little or no support.


Hence the bill. It was created by two parents whose son, Clay Hunt, suicided earlier this year. His suicide was directly connected to his military experience and his struggle to work through the trauma he experienced. Despite his work supporting other vets with these issues, he was not able to overcome the depression he experienced. So his parents Susan and Richard Selke have spent the last months lobbying the congress and senate to pass the bill so that others can get the support they need.

Although the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Bill passed the House, it seems it may not pass the Senate. The challenge is that all it takes is one senator to say no for the bill not to pass, and it just so happens there is one. Senator Tom Coburn from Oklahoma. Since he is leaving the Senate, he is deciding to make a final statement before his last moments in office. He feels $22 million is too much money and so he is blocking the bill. Apparently his is fond of saying no, so much so that his nickname is “Dr. No”.

Senator Coburn

The focus of the video is a plea from the parents to Senator Coburn asking for him to reconsider. It is moving to say the least. Mr. Selke speaks most of the time and although he does his best to keep things contained, it is clear the grief and emotion runs deep. It was powerful to see him express this emotion, since often men hold grief in check. He let it be present while he finished his words to Senator Coburn and I was thankful for it. Although Mrs. Selke barely speaks in the video, she conveys plenty without words.

After this is shown Rachel shifts to a live interview with the parents, asking them how things are going. Again the interchange is powerful and it is clear that these two people just want to make sure no other family has to experience what they have experienced.

A worthy cause.

For me, the best moment – and the reason I am writing this – came at the end. As Rachel signed off with them, she thanked them. She expressed how what they were doing was a “mitzvah”. For those of you who might not know this word, it is a Hebrew word meaning “commandment”. However over the years it has also come to mean an act of kindness towards others. She wanted to express to the Selke’s that their actions were a blessing and an act of great kindness. They could choose to do nothing or stay silent, but instead they choose to raise awareness and help others in need.

It was in this moment that grief shown through. As she offered her thanks, Rachel Maddow got choked up and actually apologized for her expression of emotion. It clearly took her effort to hold it back as the program cut to a commercial. My thought was, “Thank you. No apologies needed!”.

We are at our best when we allow ourselves to be open. When we show our human heart and acknowledge the struggles of another. When we express gratitude for the inspiration someone else stirs in us.

When we do, we are stronger for it.

I encourage you to watch the clip. It’s about 9 minutes long. Best time you’ll spend all day, if for nothing else that bearing witness to the open hearts of others. This is a good practice for your wellness. Seeing someone grieve opens us. Even if we try to put up a wall or deflect it. Grief stirs us, softens us. We may pretend to be unaffected, quickly patting the person’s shoulder saying “there, there” in hopes it will not penetrate, but it always does. Grief is good that way. It knows our deflection and it touches us regardless.

This is just my experience of seeing lots of grief expressed in many different ways. Grief keeps us open. It can keep us honest.

It’s why I have great respect for grief.

Check out the video and let us know what you think. Is there a time when witnessing grief helped you stay open? Let us know.

(By the way – as of the posting of this article the Bill did not pass the Senate – as Senator Coburn voted no.)

View Video
(The video may be short lived on YouTube. Senator Coburn was trying to get it taken down.)

Make sure to leave a comment and let us know your thoughts. As always – To Your Health.

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