SUICIDE PREVENTION BLOG HOP – Author Kendall McKenna

SuicidePreventionWeek500Greetings! My name is Kendall McKenna and I am an author of M/M Erotic Romance novels and novellas. Welcome to my blog, as we recognize Suicide Prevention Week.

Despite the serious nature of this topic, those of us involved in the blog hop are trying to write posts that ease the stigma, and foster understanding. We’ll quote facts and figures, and we’ll tell stories guaranteed to evoke strong emotion. To balance this out, we’re offering giveaways, along the way. The book I’m offering (The Final Line) at the end of my post has a link to the topic of suicide and its prevention, but it’s still an engaging read. That’s what I hope you all find this blog hop to be; relevant but engaging.

As I mentioned in my introduction, I write love stories that feature gay men. My specialty is writing authentic characters who are U.S. Marines. My books are filled with complex and layered stories, timely issues, and action sequences, including realistic combat scenes. What this means is, the majority of my characters belong to TWO groups that are at extremely high risk for suicide. LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer) teens and combat veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom are both at high risk, and I’m going to discuss the issues faced by both groups.

942828_521583044571903_2123455501_nI don’t know about you, but I hated being a teenager. I was a smart, tall and attractive blond, athletic, part of the cool crowd, and from an intact home. I was (am) straight, had enough self-esteem to resist peer pressure to engage in drugs and sexual activity, stood up to bullies, and I STILL despised my life while in high school. It is absolutely no surprise to me that gay teens would feel as though the only way to end their pain and hopelessness would be to kill themselves. LGBTQ teens face rejection from family and friends, physical and emotional torment, homelessness, confusion, shame, exposure to HIV/AIDS, and confinement for gay conversion therapy (which is absolutely ineffective and therefore amounts to torture).

What this means:

  • LGBTQ teens are FIVE TIMES MORE LIKELY to commit suicide than the general population
  • Bullying of LGBT youth has been shown to be a contributing factor in many suicides
  • The Family Acceptance Project’s research has demonstrated that LGBT youths who experience high levels of rejection from their families during adolescence are EIGHT TIMES MORE LIKELY to have attempted suicide, and SIX TIMES more likely to report high levels of depression (which is a contributing factor in the risk of suicide)
  • Parental acceptance, and even neutrality, with regard to a child’s sexual orientation can bring down the attempted suicide rate
  • The Suicide Prevention Resource Center estimated that between 30 and 40% of LGBTQ youth have attempted suicide

945161_533538666692148_1220212692_nIf that information isn’t enough to drop your jaw, consider the fact that the U.S. government launched two wars, in order to make financial fortunes through the private companies they own. Billions of dollars have been spent on the tools of war (weapons, munitions, bases, vehicles, drones, infrastructure restoral), while only a fraction of that has been spent to pay troops, and to provide post-combat mental and physical health treatment and support. The Department of Defense (DOD) cannot claim ignorance about the after-effects of combat on troops. It was Vietnam veterans who led to the understanding of PTS (Post Traumatic Stress), the development of the diagnosis in the 1990s, and how the syndrome contributed to homelessness, violence, and suicide among those veterans.

Twelve years later, U.S. military personnel, in 2013, are committing suicide at a rate of 22 PER DAY. This means, someone who put their life at risk in the belief they were protecting our country, commits suicide every 56 minutes.

I’m not talking about veterans who have been discharged, either. In 2012, suicide among active duty personnel hit an all-time high of 349. In February 2013 the DOD reported that MORE ACTIVE DUTY PERSONNEL ARE KILLING THEMSELVES, THAN ARE DYING IN COMAT (295 Americans were killed in Afghanistan in 2012). By all accounts, these numbers are underestimated. As best as anyone can tell, for every U.S. service member killed in combat, 25 commit suicide.

I don’t mean to sound as though the Veterans Administration isn’t trying to help. They established a suicide prevention hotline that has successfully prevented 26,000 military suicides. Except, that means more than 26,000 veterans are experiencing suicidal tendencies.

1231100_425560200886505_758862622_nNow, not all veterans who commit suicide have seen combat. The three primary factors that appear to contribute to this problem are PTS, TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), and desperate financial problems. Notice, I just brought us full circle: billions of dollars were invested in the infrastructure of war, while the people who put their lives on the line for their convictions (and by extension, our safety and security), don’t make enough money (despite receiving housing subsidies and free health care) to survive without food stamps. Deployment frequently results in their houses being foreclosed on, and despite what the banks have been ordered to do, accommodation is rarely made to help them keep their homes.

I was working in law enforcement in the 1990s when the PTS diagnosis swept the mental health community. I was a crises response counselor, which meant I responded to situations where the potential for emotional trauma to our own staff was likely. Officer involved shootings, the death of one of our own personnel (violent or natural), close calls, incidents of extraordinary violence involving civilians, or extremely sympathetic victims (children). It was, and is, recognized that law enforcement and military culture, along with the types of personalities that enter both professions, cause these groups to be at higher risk because they are the least likely to reach out for help.

Our veterans tend to be strong personalities with tendencies toward independence. They loath weakness and will do nearly anything to avoid even the appearance of it. They’re generally not talkative, especially regarding their emotions, because emotion is viewed as weakness. They do not seek out, or ask for help, believing it’s a sign of weakness. As group, they’re more comfortable with violence than most of us, and usually have easy access to firearms.

If there is any group that mistakenly views mental health issues as stigmatized, it’s the military. It’s considered unacceptable to have a mental health issue, let alone seek help for it. They must be strong; they must handle their problems alone to prove their strength.

Both of these groups need our help. We must ensure our own words and actions don’t cast mental health issues in a bad light. It’s critical that we be accepting of these groups as individuals. Education, intervention, and treatment for individuals contemplating suicide must be plentiful, easy to access, and affordable.

To learn more, or to help combat the issue of high rates of suicide in LGBTQ youth:

To learn more, or to obtain help for military personnel at risk for suicide:

TheFinalLineEventPicSince I write books about U.S. Marines who have seen combat, I have to write characters who deal with PTS and TBI. I am currently revising a book, Waves Break My Fall, for re-release. I am expanding the main character’s battle with PTS to include suicidal thoughts. However, I released a book this past July that features a character with severe PTS. While he doesn’t contemplate suicide, he does experience fatalistic thinking, which can accompany or even precede thoughts of suicide. This book is titled The Final Line, and I’m offering a chance to win an e-book copy.

To read more about The Final Line (The Recon Diaries Book #2), you can go here.

 

Click below for a chance to enter to win an ebook copy of my title
The Final Line

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

If you haven’t already, you can also enter to win the blog hop grand prize

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

30 Comments

  1. Sue Sattler

    My son spent over 4 years struggling to deal with severe PTSD and TBI from his 15 months in Iraq. On Jan. 2, 2011, he decided he could no longer do it and completed suicide. He was 25 and my oldest child, my sunshine, my pride and joy and my friend. We tried for many years to get him help, he was surrounded by loving family and friends, but I think sometimes he felt like a failure because he wasn’t able to handle it on his own. My sister and her husband are both psychologists so there was never any stigma about getting help. To say that his death devastated all of us is an understatement. I will never be the person I use to be, a part of me will be broken until I’m with him again. Thank you for bringing this subject out in the open, I talk about it often. My son didn’t do this to hurt us, he just wanted the pain to stop, I know that if he had been thinking clearly, knowing all the pain that we would be in, he never would have done this, he didn’t have a mean bone in his body. We talked about suicide often, the extra hurt that came when someone chooses to take their life and he promised me that if he ever felt like that, he would come to me. But one night after not sleeping for days and tired of the sounds and smells of battle assaulting him, he broke his promise and my heart. Suicide needs to be taken out of the closet, held like a dirty little secret, a brand of shame that only adds to the ones that attempt and the survivors. Only taking it out into the light of day and talking about it loudly instead of whispering in disgust will we then start to put a halt to this overwhelming tide of suicide.

    proudarmymom32(at)yahoo(dot)com

    1. Kendall McKenna (Post author)

      I am extremely sorry for the loss of your son. I chose not to have children, and I’m aware that the losses I’ve suffered aren’t nearly the same, so I won’t even pretend that understand what it’s like for you. I do believe you’re so very right that he felt like a failure for not being able to handle his issues on his own. Having studied, as well as being a part of, subcultures that are made up of what are essentially ‘first responders’, there truly is a type of personality that gravitates toward these types of jobs. Sadly, some of the things that make them strong, dependable, and courageous, also cause them to feel they can’t show weakness, let alone actually have what they view as a weakness. They suffer in stoic silence, mistakenly believing they have to, because accepting help makes them ‘lesser than’. It’s good that your family is open about mental health and that none of you attach a stigma to it, but you most likely were up against a deeply ingrained belief that weakness equals failure. We probably need to openly discuss that, as well, so warriors and leos, and those like them, can come to believe that no one considers them lesser, for needing help. It’s good that you realize your son didn’t intend to hurt anyone with his actions. Your burden is heavy enough, you wouldn’t have deserved to carry that as well. Until you’ve been sleep deprived, there is no way to understand just how adversely it affects our sanity; quite literally.

      Several years ago, I came to learn that we all have an affect on the people we come in contact with. Often times, the contact is fleeting, and frequently, we never get to know whose life we touched and in what way. Your son has that legacy, though. You may never learn the details, but somewhere, someone’s life is better for having met your son.

  2. Trix

    I’ve learned so much on this hop already…I’m sure it will save a life somewhere. Thanks so much for participating!

    vitajex(at)aol(dot)com

    1. Kendall McKenna (Post author)

      Thank you for hopping by, and I very much hope that someone, somewhere, is helped or saved.

  3. Danny

    It is really shocking how high the suicide rates are. PTSD is pure hell, I saw that with the son of a friend of mine. It is so sad.

    Same goes for the LGBTQ, I would love to kick every bully and not understanding family butt, because they make the kids lives pure hell, it is a shame.

    dannyfiredragon@aol.com

    1. Kendall McKenna (Post author)

      As aware as I was of PTSD and that it can result in suicide, I admit, when the stats were released in February and we learned suicide deaths out number combat deaths, I was stunned.

      I was bullied when I was young, so when I hit my considerable full height at 13, I didn’t just stand up for myself, but I began to stand up for others, as well. Sometimes some well chosen words could shame the bully, but if not, standing up and looking down at them made them think twice. Parents, teachers, administrators and leaders absolutely need to work to stop this problem, but how much less bullying might there be if those who CAN stand up, DID stand up?

  4. bn100

    Thanks for sharing your story

    bn100candg at hotmail dot com

    1. Kendall McKenna (Post author)

      Thank you for hopping by!

  5. Tempeste O'Riley

    Such a powerful post, Kendall. As the wife of a Vet I’ve seen how proud they can be, often to their own detriment. And yes, the VA offers hotlines and such, but getting things like counselling is hard–they never seem to have enough providers or appointment for those in need.
    And the GLBTQ youth (and adults) need more support from their friends and families–esp. their families! Just tolerance is enough to derail the depression and hopelessness many feel. When faced with being disowned, thrown away, etc. it’s hard to have hope in the future.
    Thank you for your post and your stories!

    Tempeste.oriley @ Gmail.com

    1. Kendall McKenna (Post author)

      Thank you, Tempe! Yes, the VA is trying but they’re woefully underfunded and therefore, understaffed. I agree, it’s hard to hope for the future, but then I remember that I was born into a conservative, bigoted family. I changed! There’s no way I’m alone, others have to have altered their views and behaviors, as well. That’s a reason to have a little hope.

  6. Suze

    Some frightening figures there Kendall. Lets hope more people become aware of the support available to them

    Suze
    Littlesuze at hotmail.com

    1. Kendall McKenna (Post author)

      Very frightening. We’ve got to keep trying help though, in whatever ways we’re able to, as individuals.

  7. Cindi Clubbs

    My boyfriend has just been diagnosed with PTSD after years of angry outbursts, the inability to keep a job or stay in a relationship, and basically a life spent staying away from people. Thanks for writing books that explain to people the symptoms of PTSD and how it affects loved ones.
    cc_clubbs at yahoo dot com

    1. Kendall McKenna (Post author)

      It’s mind boggling how both PTSD and TBI can literally alter someone’s personality. I’m glad your boyfriend has finally been diagnosed. Let’s hope that getting some help will improve the quality of his life.

      I’ll keep writing the books! You never know who’s reading, and what they learn from it. All it takes is one person to make a change.

  8. Cornelia

    Thanks for bringing this to awareness,so much I didn’t know.

    1. Kendall McKenna (Post author)

      Thank you for hopping by, and I’m glad my post was a little informative.

  9. DebraG

    I am so glad you are doing this hop. When my daughter first came out, she struggled so much and we worried so much.
    debby236 at gmail dot com

    1. Kendall McKenna (Post author)

      I’m glad your daughter was able to come out. Living lie can be so very destructive as well.

      Thanks for hopping by!

  10. Juliana

    It is shocking the rates of military suicides. So very sad and worrying for my friends in various services. I appreciate your startling statistics.
    Thank you for being part of this special hop.
    OceanAkers @ aol.com

    1. Kendall McKenna (Post author)

      The stats stunned me when I first read them. I just hope that openly discussing them will lead to the availability of resources for service personnel who so obviously deserve them.

      Thanks for hopping by!

  11. H.B.

    Thank you for taking the time to take part in the hop and for sharing these shocking statistics for rates of military suicide. I knew that suicide did happen in service but not at such a large number.

    1. Kendall McKenna (Post author)

      It shocked the hell out of me, too, when I first read about it. I hope service members are able to get the help they need and deserve.

  12. Cynthia

    Thanks for sharing and participating.

    schan26.wisc(at)gmail(dot)com

    1. Kendall McKenna (Post author)

      Thank you for hopping!

  13. Anas

    Thank you for sharing, the figures surprised me.

    moonsurfer123 at gmail dot com

    1. Kendall McKenna (Post author)

      Me as well.

      Thank you for hopping by.

  14. Carolyn

    What an important message, Kendall. Reading about the suicides in these two groups, along with bullied kids, always hits me the hardest. Of course it’s a horrible to hear that anyone was in so much pain that they committed suicide. We need more awareness, more support, and less stigma on mental health. Thank you so much for being part of the change we need.

    Carolyn
    caroaz [at] ymail [dot] com

    1. Kendall McKenna (Post author)

      I agree, we need more awareness and more easily available resources to help.

      Thanks for hopping by!

  15. Pam

    Thanks for participating in such a worthwhile hop.

    pjmillion (at) comcast (dot) net

    1. Kendall McKenna (Post author)

      And thank you, as well.

Comments are closed.