Social Media: A Weapon Against Veteran Suicide
Bullets are making a “snap” sound on the walls as they come through the windows while we run out the door to get in the fight. The next thing I know I am opening my eyes and see my two year-old son and wife sleeping in bed next to me. My heart is still racing as it takes me a minute to realize I left the war 10 years ago. Like many veterans my dreams are just as vivid as ever.
Veteran suicide is said to be averaging 22 a day and all the while the support from the US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) continues to be a running joke in the veteran community. An unlikely weapon has emerged to combat this epidemic however, wielding itself in the form of social media.
Many veterans are using social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook as a way to share their emotions. One application, specifically, called Pos Rep, is a social network, exclusively for veterans, that uses the same type of technology being implemented in dating apps such as Tinder, allowing members to see other veterans nearby. It helps military personnel stay in contact as they leave service and go back to their home states, usually far away from their military family. It also has an option that will post their location in a time of crisis so they can be located and be provided proper support; this is similar to Facebook’s “check-in”.
Organizations such as LCpl Janos V Lutz Live to Tell Foundation rely heavily on marketing through social media to raise awareness and fund community programs that focus on health and support of returning veterans. This particular foundation uses its funds to provide local first responders with training in how to handle a veteran with posttraumatic stress disorder in crisis. As getting help from the VA is not a quick or easy process, and I know few that are impressed by help available, programs like the Live to Tell Foundation are a much needed service for our veterans. Social media is available in many forms, and with the advancement in mobile devices, it can be accessed at any time and most any place. Social media has become a huge tool in the prevention of veteran suicide, connecting those in need with friends, family, or fellow veterans and making the difference in a veteran’s life between recovering or becoming just another statistic.
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