Last week on facebook, I posted statistics about veteran suicide in the United States. Everyday on facebook, I watch my newsfeed fill up with posts about political and religious hatred and bigotry, cute animal pictures and anecdotes, stories about children and pregnancy, and news about books and publishing. I posted something that affects everyone, whether they know it or not. Everyone throughout the United States knows a cousin, neighbor, sibling, parent, friend, or member of their church who has served or is currently serving in the United States military. Serving in any capacity in the United States military makes that person a veteran, therefore everyone probably knows at least one. And if they’ve been in the military in the last ten years, the chances of those veterans having been deployed to a combat zone such as Afghanistan or Iraq are exceptionally high.
The statistics said this: “For every soldier killed on the battlefield this year, approximately 25 veterans are dying by their own hands. More than 6,500 veteran suicides are logged every year – more than the total number of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq combined since those wars began. Veterans of all wars account for about 20% of the suicides in the US every year.”
I monitored the facebook site where the statistics originated, as well as the sites of friends who had also shared the statistics. The site where it was posted, https://www.facebook.com/safecallnow, has 3,569 likes. Their posting of this statistic lead to 257 shares, 98 likes, and 20 comments as of 27 September 2012, which equals about 10.5% of the people that might be watching that page. Including myself, I saw the statistic posted on four facebook pages. Those four people have 1,443 friends between them with 41 shares, 15 likes, and 8 comments on that statistic, which means only 4% of the people in those people’s lives care enough about the lives of the people around them to say something. I do realize that there are a lot more people who are not using their facebooks these days and I also realize that facebook runs certain algorithms and only shows certain feeds, but I can’t help that nagging sense that people just don’t care.
Congratulations! You contributed to the deaths of 20% of the population who kill themselves every year!
“But, Miss Jacobs, I didn’t do anything!”
Exactly. You did NOTHING. I’ve already established that if you are a United States citizen, that you probably do know a veteran. Your silence about topics that matter, things that might actually make a difference in someone’s life, is contributing to those people’s deaths. Yes, the statistics are terribly depressing. But if you read something like that and you have any feelings at all, would sharing that information really be so hard? Or not even sharing it, but leaving a comment about how much those statistics suck, or liking the picture to show your support really be that hard? People on facebook seem to have the time to find, share, like, and comment about all the hatred and stupidity in the world but have no time or energy to attempt to make a positive difference in the world around them. I know veterans. I know lots of veterans. And I know veterans who have died, both by circumstances beyond their control and by their own hand.
When in doubt, you could at least pretend to care. Leave a comment. Share the statistics. Bring awareness to a situation that’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better. Those statistics maybe bad now, but given the way things are progressing, I would bet that they’re actually going to get a lot worse. The military has been instructed to find ways to kick soldiers out, which is going to put more pressure on the military personnel that continue to be expected to go above and beyond the call of duty and serve their country in places that would make the average person cringe, only to return from combat and get kicked out because their leadership failed them and now they can’t take care of their families. United States military personnel volunteer their lives to serve their country and protect the people they love. They go to war and get put in unhealthy situations and return to a world where it feels like no one cares about them. They feel as though their employer is actively attempting to screw them over and doesn’t care anything about them and they feel abandoned and forgotten by their family and friends. It’s a crappy situation to be in.
Every voice matters, even yours. You may never know who you’re helping or if you’re helping, but at least by pretending care, you might help save someone. So even if you don’t really care or don’t know if you know a veteran, if you have a heart at all, at least pretend to care.