It’s hard to believe that 22 veterans take their own lives every day in the US. Some people probably believe those numbers can’t possibly be accurate.
The world places such stigma on the diagnosis of mental illness that coming up with a solution is not easy. The denial is enormous. Placing close to 2,000 American flags across the National Mall makes it hard to ignore, unless one questions the accuracy of the statistic.
Do the math: 1,892/90=21.02. The flags represent veteran suicides since January 1, 2014. That would be about 22 per day.
The stigma doesn’t lie just with people suffering from depression or other conditions. It prevents medical professionals from choosing to practice psychiatry as a medical specialty because they are stigmatized by their peers for choosing to practice psychiatry.
Why are we so ashamed of revealing emotions? To the extent that we’re willing to turn our cheeks while 22 American veteran’s kill themselves everyday?
Last year Washington made a cash infusion into mental health services in hopes of shoring up the ranks of psychiatric providers. Doing so only seems to have bought a little time, enough to say, ‘OK, we’re doing something to fix the problem’. But a year later we don’t seem to have made any progress.
Nurses are a group that’s poised to fill in the gaps of providers, if the number-crunchers would get to work. Placing a mental health RN in every primary care practice will help — I guarantee.
I follow hiring trends at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Western North Carolina and I rarely see mental health jobs posted (the process of getting hired at the Veterans Administration is abysmally outdated and time-consuming, so much so that I’ve heard of courses being offered in How To Get A Job At The Veterans Administration).
Until we can acknowledge the enormous White Elephant in the room that is “mental illness” we aren’t going to make much progress. Next time you are out with your friends look around, see and believe, that 1 in 4 of everyone around you has at one time or another had to seek help for emotional challenges.
I applaud the veterans and their caregivers who took the time to place those 1,892 little American flags on the National Mall in Washington, DC. Progress is rarely made by being silent.