By the time you get home from work today, at least 6 veterans will have committed suicide. That comes out roughly to 22 veteran suicides per day. Of the 22 deaths a day, only about 5 are patients in the mental health system. What does that tell you about the level of care to our nation's veterans?

I'm going to talk about a subject that is very close to my heart - Suicide. Only my editor, Tim Brown, knows about what I'm going to tell you. Being a veteran, you could say that I have a "dog in the fight" about this subject. In a previous article, I mentioned that I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Syndrome Disorder (PTSD) at the VA Medical Center. That was in 2004.

In 2011, I attempted suicide twice within a 5 month period and I've been in the VA system on and off since 1985. The VA is the only "healthcare" I have. If my wife put me on her Blue Cross plan, we wouldn't be able to afford healthcare at all because of the skyrocketing premiums and co-pays for a family of three. As it is, she and my youngest son do have "real" health insurance, I am the odd man out that has to rely on the government for my healthcare. Both my Primary Care Physician and my Mental Health Care Provider know about both attempts. I was never referred to a suicide prevention clinic or even a class.

I'm glad that I survived because it made me really open my eyes to what the system can and doesn't do for people like me. VA "mental health" centers tend to only provide medication to combat depression, but do not try to get to the root and cause of such a drastic measure. Oh sure, the VA has a "Suicide Prevention Hotline," but when you've hit the bottom and see no other way out, who the heck takes the time to call?

Like many other families across the country, we have experienced suicide first-hand. My son, Robert, took his life on May 6, 2000. So you could say that I am very qualified to talk about this subject.

No matter what I do, I can never bring back my son, but my hope is to prevent another family from experiencing the horror of the death of a loved one from suicide.  Those veterans I mentioned are somebody's children, brother, uncle, they are somebody's husband and some child's father. Suicide is an ugly thing that affects many more people than just the individual who has committed this desperate act. If you are left behind after a suicide, the guilt is tremendous. Surviving family members are forever altered by that death. Every holiday is different, along with every birthday. No matter how hard you try, there is always that empty seat at the dinner table that never again will have an occupant.  And here is the cold hard reality of suicide; you are dealing with two types of people, who are one and the same: A murderer and murder victim.  The emotions of those left behind range from unbelievable grief to horrific anger. 

Why am I telling you my most intimate and private family business? I want to spare you the grief that my family has and does to this very day, experience.  Sadly, there are too many of my fellow veterans who do not have families. Too many are left to their own devices and wander the streets until finally they just quit trying to participate in life. Sadly, the morgues across this country have too many of these men and women lying silent in body bags. The lucky ones will have a family member claim them, but there are more that do not have a loved one to provide them with the opportunity of final rest.  

Suicide does not differentiate between sex, race, ethnicity, religion or political affiliation. Dealing with the death of a loved one is hard enough, but when an individual takes their own life, the ones left behind have it much more difficult than most realize. It often causes families to break-up and those are the worst casualties of all.

The next time you drive by that guy (or gal) on a freeway entrance or exit who hold-up a sign that says, "Homeless Vet," think very hard for a moment before you drive-by on your way to your destination. It doesn't take any more time to slow down and stop and dig out some money from your wallet (or purse) to make a person's life a little better. If you have a loved one, who is a veteran, believe me when I tell you; there is one more thing you can do to save their life, even if you think you're all out of patience or options! No matter how hard it is on the family, if a veteran is suffering from "issues," believe me when I tell you, that it will be worse if they take their life and leave you behind.

If you're a veteran, or have a veteran family member and you don't think you have any more options, trust me when I tell you; that there is always something else you can do to save your life or the life of a loved one. 

I will never again hold my son in my arms, but if this article prevents any of you that awful fate my family has suffered, then my life will have meaning.

I leave you with this  http://veteranscrisisline.net/.  Please use it. If you have a loved that needs help, don't hesitate to make that call yourself ASAP, they might be mad at you if you put them in the hospital against their will, but it beats the alternative. Believe me...I know. 

Post Script - I realize that the link I provided you with is to the VA Crisis Line I spoke ill of at the beginning of my article, but in light of recent negative publicity, I am sure they will try very hard to help you. They cannot afford any more Veterans dying from neglect on their watch.

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