Monday, September 19, 2011

Suicide Prevention Month

Greetings, friends,

Through all the summer turmoil of torrid heat, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, and a hurricane, and personal crises too numerous to mention individually, we now arrive in September, or Suicide Prevention Month.  What does this really mean? 

All too well, we know that Suicide Prevention is a constant and active choice.  It happens hour by hour, day by day, by those who care.  So many studies now affirm that caring peers and friends can help others to choose life over the very final decision to take their own lives.  Nearly all in this VCG Community can attest to the day a VCG Hug arrived at a crucial moment, someone took the time to reach out when silence was noted, and a call or email was sent or received that lifted spirits and made you feel cared for and about. With crisis, depression, or fear -- a caring word or thought can change an otherwise desperate outcome.

There are many, many official tools in place:  suicide hotlines, crisis helplines, online chat, and service branch programs. Valuable tools with the emphasis on the person in crisis taking that first step.  Other programs permit friends and families to identify and encourage obtaining help.  Yet, what about the simple act of situational awareness and realizing that you haven't seen or heard a word from "Jane" online/offline in a few days?  The gentle proactive outreach that says "I noticed you've been quiet; are you alright?"  There are countless occasions that accomplished the miraculous - this online community cares, and it shows.  

Bob Delaney's new book, "Surviving the Shadows" speaks of peer support as the most powerful tool available following trauma or crisis.  We agree wholeheartedly.  So, as this September enlightens many to greater awareness of noticing or identifying anguish, depression, and suicidal thoughts, please know and appreciate how YOU hold each other up, lift spirits, and give hope to those that feel or felt hopeless.  

Let's keep on caring, and reaching out to each other - you might matter to someone else more than you'll ever know... We care and it shows!

When in doubt - reach out!

Blessings and thanks,


Sunday, September 18, 2011

To Complain or not to Complain, that is the Question

Borrowing a line from Shakespeare totally fits the dilemma that we have when dealing with the VA. When we get less than desirable treatment or when we have to deal with something which is dangerous or life-threatening, do we dare to complain?

Many who have made a complaint have been retaliated against. They have received even less care, have been told they are lying or that they are causing the problem. Entries are made in medical records which is difficult if not impossible to have removed. All of this allows the VA to put the blame on the patient or the caregiver and frees them from the necessity of dealing with the problem.

On the other hand, if we do not make a genuine complaint, we are left dealing with the fall-out of the lack of care. As usual, it is often the caregiver who deals with fall-out, which adds another layer of burden to a person who is already burdened beyond belief.

No matter how politely we make our complaint, no matter how much we follow protocol, no matter who we talk with and no matter how many people promise things will change, they rarely do for the better. The VA and the level of care appears to be in a downward spiral. As the current deployments come to an end, and our troops return, the pressure on the VA facilities will increase. In my opinion the level of care will decrease with the increase in patient load.

I have no answer for the issue of complaints, as it is a double edged sword. Every family must make a decision based on their circumstances and knowledge. No one should be penalized for complaining about lack of appropriate care, no one should be treated with disrespect because they do not fit the on-size-fits-all that the VA protocols are written for. What I do know is that this is an extremely unfair burden to place on both Veterans and those that care for them.