An Effort to Help Curb Veteran Suicides
According to a recent Veteran’s Department study, more than 20 veterans and active duty personnel commit suicide each day. A prior VA study put that number closer to 22.
The toll of military service could not be starker than the way it manifests in those men and women who come to believe—wrongly and tragically—that relief from their unbearable psychological suffering will never come. That grim perspective is the work of depression, PTSD and other disorders that erode, and then erase, faith in the healing power of psychiatry and psychology, of love, of time and of God.
As a counselor and life coach who has worked in state, community mental health, and VA settings (both inpatient and outpatient), my current private practice of counseling and life coaching means I now remain at an uncomfortable distance from the pain of America's veterans. And that makes me uncomfortable. Because I live in a nation in which I enjoy the freedoms America’s veterans fought and fight to preserve.
That’s why I have decided to offer a full day, the 22nd of every month, composed of one-hour counseling and advice sessions for any veteran who wants my help, free of charge, anywhere in the world—whether in person, by phone or via Skype or FaceTime.
The first person I reached out to for assistance was Commander Kirk Lippold USN (Ret). Kirk was in command of the USS Cole when al Qaeda terrorists viciously attacked her on October 12, 2000, during a refueling stop in the Gulf of Aden. He helped pull his injured and fatally wounded Sailors from the ocean that day. He knows horrors the likes of which few of us civilians ever will.
Kirk’s father was a psychologist who founded the Salt Lake Suicide Prevention Center. When he was about five-years-old, he heard his dad answering calls at all times of the day and night from people who needed help. And he never forgot it.
I could not be more honored that Commander Lippold has agreed to join me in launching #HELP22. Soon, we intend to challenge psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, pastoral counselors, and life coaches around America to offer their own days of free counseling and advice on the 22nd of each month. These professionals have remarkable, effective healing tools at their disposal. Every single hour could save a life.
My first #HELP22 day will take place beginning 8 a.m. on November 22 (and running 11 hours, until 7 p.m.) Those who want to avail themselves of my time need only email firstname.lastname@example.org to begin the process of registering.
I'm not taking off for lunch or dinner during my #HELP22 day. I want my day to symbolize, in some small way, the endless days Commander Lippold and all servicemen and women know about. America's veterans have contributed countless selfless hours, often in distant lands, risking their lives. I'll be sitting safely in my office in Newburyport, Massachusetts, with plenty of hot coffee right downstairs. My service is nothing compared to theirs, and I know it. But, I want to do something, and I hope my colleagues around the nation will join me and help turn our #HELP22 into a nationwide network of service to those who serve and have served.
Keith Ablow, MD, is a life coach and counselor who has authored 16 books, including multiple New York Times and USA Today bestsellers. He was, for a decade, the Fox News Network on-air psychiatrist. He is the founder of The Ablow Center (www.theablowcenter.com). He lives in Newburyport, Massachusetts.