Everybody Hurts, Somtimes

If you’re on your own in this life
The days and nights are long
When you think you’ve had too much
Of this life to hang on
— REM “Everybody Hurts” Automatic for the People (1992)

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicide are tangible results from a U.S. military that has been at continual war since 2001 (some people would argue even longer).  There are more outcomes from continual posture and war, but for this discussion let us discuss the impacts on our military members; those micro-level impacts that push our military members into a darker place where perhaps they struggle with those demons that prevent them from living.

It seems cliche to discuss mental health with today’s military as with the higher than normal rates of suicide and mental health problems with total force military (active, reserve, guard) and veterans.  Yet with all the available help for people, the rates have not declined.  Perhaps we all need to re-evaluate the situation and our approach.

We all struggle emotionally and mentally at one point.

That is a fact.  

Emotions are difficult to not only individuals to process, let alone effectively communicate with others.  Our first tendency is to ask people “Why do you feel the way you do?”  Things though are never as simple as they are in the military training nor does our military culture know how to fully understand emotional empathy or interact appropriately with emotions besides fear and anger.

How can we help others when we don’t understand our own emotional traumas from our experiences nor have the ability to empathize with others in a society and culture that does not do well with emotions?

As a military leaders and mentor, you need to understand emotions and how people process (or do not process) those painful or negatively-associated emotions.  One does not need to be a psychiatrist or have a degree in psychology, but one must understand some basics so that they can help those around them in times of need.  The best place to understand this complicated world is to reflect upon their own emotional traumas or previous resolved issues.

Explore any veteran- or military-minded social media account; these modern day Steinbecks and Mark Twains focus on a theme related to exploring and expressing their emotions of the various traumatic exposures in their time.  Videos and memes are artistic ventures expressing all levels of experiences that do not make sense to the author’s mind; be it unjust supervisors, socially unacceptable colleagues, destroyed societies, dead military members, or actions taken to end life.  Art is being used to help these members process their emotions to make sense of what it is they have seen.

You probably have laughed at some of these memes or videos or taken part in online discussions.  You laugh at these jokes or admire the meme art because there is truth in expression that your mind associates with some experience in your life.  These outlets are ways for military members and veterans to explore their emotional responses and better understand the chaos and experiences that they can not control.  As military leaders, we should encourage this camaraderie in our units as a way for all members to vent their frustrations and emotions; as long as they are respectful.

There are many military programs out there helping us all understand why our colleagues choose suicide, yet the number of occurrences are not drastically falling.  Complete a quick Google Search and there are countless programs.

Department of Defense Suicide Prevention

Army Suicide Prevention Program

Air Force Suicide Prevention Program

Navy Suicide Prevention Program

Defense Health Agency Suicide Prevention Program

Department of Veterans Affairs Suicide Prevention Program

These programs are very “by the numbers” walking military members through the basics, but they do not include a background or understanding of WHY things are the way they are.  If military members want to do more to prevent suicide, they need to understand  the simplified process and how simple actions can prevent events.

Suicide is the last in a chain of events where the individual has made the their final decision to a series of events.  Drug abuse (in terms of alcohol, narcotics, etc) is the decision from someone who needs to medicate from the stressors of personal trauma and need to self-medicate.  Stressful events, especially those that are not processed appropriately, lead to an overwhelmed mind that can not process simple tasks.

Hope is the underpinning of one’s existence.  

When one loses or has experienced events that diminish one’s hope, an individual will result to something that will allow them to establish a glimmer of hope be it drugs, exercise, or spiritual assessment.  Resilience underpins the individual’s ability to struggle through the stressors or problems faced in life and hope powers resilience.  For those of us looking to help out others, helping others find that hope powering their residence to the emotional stress, personal traumas, or overwhelming pain.

Help those who hurt find purpose-filled joy while they seek professional help.  Purpose that is NOT military affiliated.

How best though can one prepare for something like this?  Evaluate your own life.  

How are you handling the personal pressures and stressors in your life?  Depending on the person in the military and where you are along your career path, there are varying levels of emotional and mental stress.  How have you handled these stressors?  Use your own personal lessons to help others find that purpose; this is the key to real camaraderie with your teammates.  

It is only a matter of time for you to experience some life altering experiences and right now is the best time for you to evaluate your own mental well-being.  In order for you to be able to help others, one must be prepared their own affairs; how can we expect military members to help others if they have not prepared their own affairs.  Completing a computer-based training event will not prepare people for the traumas awaiting their future.

This is where military members need to find these healthy outlets of humor and art that allow them to explore their emotions.  Developing conversations or outlets that allow conversations are the best way to build resiliency.

What are your outlets you can share with others?



A military member who created this website as an outlet to help others find purpose through an exploration of their thoughts.