LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — September is National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month and taking that first step to acknowledge personal mental health issues can be difficult, especially for those in the military.
“While we’re on active duty, we’re looked down upon if we have a breakdown or challenges,” shared Navy veteran Amy Jack.
She faced several challenges while she served, including an emotionally abusive relationship, different medical conditions, and dealing with the pressures of being a single mom.
This combination drained her mentally and after 15 years, she was deemed unemployable and was honorably discharged.
“Losing my career was rock bottom. I literally left everything behind, the relationship belongings everything, and moved to Las Vegas,” Jack said. “Once I left active duty, that’s really when you lose all sense of direction.”
She decided to restructure her life and move to Las Vegas to be closer to family. While in the valley, she reached out to the VA for help.
“I think it was very fear-driven for me,” Jack said. “The fact that I was on the verge of losing my employment and my livelihood again. It was like okay I can’t continue to do this.”
The latest numbers (as of 2017) from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs show, more than 6,000 veterans die by suicide each year, nationwide.
That’s roughly 16 to 20 every single day.
Jack says one of the biggest problems is the stigma surrounding mental health issues and the military.
After years of working on her own mental health, she now gives back to other veterans as a peer support specialist for the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System.
“For me to be in peer support, I love the fact that I can reach out to these veterans and say I understand," she said. "I’ve been there.”
“Let me help you take these steps, let me walk the path with you.”
Jack says family and friends can help break down those barriers by simply starting the conversation.
“It’s a tough conversation," she said, "and many people freeze and don’t know what to say."
“We’ve gotta be comfortable with asking, just asking straight out, are you thinking about suicide? Are you thinking of harming yourself?”
Jack says its important to always remember there is hope, and things will get better.
“It doesn’t happen overnight,” she said. “It takes time.”
For veterans struggling with PTSD, depression, or feelings of hopelessness you are not alone. Please visit lasvegas.va.gov or call the Veteran Crisis Line/National Suicide Prevention number at 1-800-273-8255.
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