Getting Upstream to Avert Tragedy


Today I will attend a funeral – a father who took his life.  Loving family, successful business, active in church – hard to understand, yet very real.  This tragedy is another indication that suicide knows no bounds, cutting across all ages and stages of life, unimpressed by fame, fortune, or status.  We see it everyday in America.  In our veteran community alone, there will be twenty who lose all hope and end their earthly lives- today, and every day.  To illustrate this point even further, there have been two three-star flag officers in the military who also took their lives in the last eighteen months.

Suicide is yet one more American epidemic that continues to defy the best secular approaches our nation’s mental health experts can offer.  Certainly, their efforts to reduce suicide are not in vain, but is there anything else we can do to stem this ultimate loss of hope across our land?

Looking back to my experience as a military commander, I recall the cardinal importance of “setting the conditions” for success prior to putting troops in harm’s way – rigorous training, good intelligence, use of long-range fires to soften the target, proper logistics, and so forth.  I often called this “getting upstream” to insure we had done everything possible to ensure that we accomplished the mission, and that we brought our troops home alive.

This principle applies equally to suicide prevention – we must get upstream in a person’s life to develop resilient reflexes to deal with the inevitable hurts, stressors, disappointments, and disillusionments of life.   Regrettably, such a preemptive approach is seldom pursued, particularly in the “politically incorrect” realm of faith-based protocols.  To ignore spiritual wellness as a foundational suicide prevention component represents medical malpractice.

Faith-based programs have proven highly effective in drug rehabilitation programs, restoration of the incarcerated, and suicide prevention among veterans, active duty military, and the general population.  Tragically, such faith-based programs are seldom given a seat at the mental health or suicide prevention tables, despite the deep body of empirical evidence that illustrates that “faith makes a difference,” sometimes all the difference in a person’s ultimate life decisions.

To highlight the most recent example of a national suicide prevention initiative, President Trump signed an executive order to establish the PREVENT program to reduce veteran suicides.  This order properly establishes a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) task force to address the issue.  Historically, however, the VA and the Department of Defense (DOD) have resisted full consideration or inclusion of faith-based protocols — to the detriment of overall readiness, resilience, and resistance to the toughest of life challenges.  This time must be different:  give the body of highly effective faith-based veterans programs a seat and a voice at the table.

Faith makes a difference, a real difference in the real fight against suicide.  Let’s get everything in the fight on behalf of the many who will consider killing themselves today, America.

Bob Dees

#Resilience #GodStyle #Hope

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