I received a Facebook message over the weekend from Marine friend that I hadn’t heard from in months. “Do you have time to talk today?”
I looked at the time sent: 2:30 a.m. This couldn’t be good. No one wants to talk about podcast collaborations that early in the morning, and deep conversations usually come with this precursor message.
When we connected, he admitted he was depressed and wasn’t sure what to do. He was looking for my advice. I told him that letting someone know is an important first step.
His depression had been going on for about a year, and he was starting to experience suicide ideation. I began listing off a number of things I believed could help him. I recommended finding his local Vet Center, journaling, volunteering, getting involved with his Team RWB chapter, among other things. I reassured him that if none of those ideas helped, that I could connect him with a dozen more. I punctuated my list of helpful thoughts with the Veterans Crisis Line. I emphasized that the VCL should always be his first step when he finds himself in crisis, especially if he considers harming himself.
Before we hung up, I reassured him he could reach out to me whenever he needed to talk, and I reiterated my support for the VCL.
I receive these calls often. Not because I’m a suicide prevention guru or because I have the secret to happiness, but because I put myself out there. I told the world my story of suicide. I humbled myself, shared my dark history, and trusted listeners with my vulnerable experiences. My friends know they can come to me when they’re in a similar situation.
Sharing your experience can save a life. I’ve learned this to be true regarding all negative experiences Veterans go through. Timothy Jones, a male sexual assault survivor, receives similar contact from those that heard his story, can relate, and need to talk to someone that understands. I know Veterans that have stood on their stories of depression, sexual assault, homelessness, PTSD, and more, to become a lightning rod of hope and empathy from their audience.
We all want to reach millions with our story, but that’s only so we can trust we reach the one that needs to hear it.
That’s what this blog is for. That’s what our podcast is for. That’s what websites like Make the Connection are for. To share our stories, hoping the person who needs to hear it will be reminded they’re not alone and that the can always reach out for help.