In case you’ve been living under a rock, were just unaware, or you hadn’t heard; May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Today happens to also be Memorial Day. You may be wondering what one has to do with the other. Well, in one sense they have nothing to do with each other. Yet, at the same time, they have everything to do with each other. To clarify this, permit me to explain.
Memorial Day has, since its inception in 1868, been a day to honor the fallen men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of their country. This “ultimate sacrifice” has appropriately been understood to mean those who died. In the years since, the day and who is honored has been modestly adjusted to include not only those who died in defense of the country, but who defended freedom wherever they served, including in America’s own Civil War.
Mental Health Awareness Month began being observed in May of 1949. Interestingly, this is a few years after the Second World War. The significance of this cannot be missed because, as any soldier can tell you, war can have a great impact on the life of soldier. I would argue that the fallen are not the only ones who don’t return from the battlefield. I would submit to you that many soldiers who do come back with varying degrees of mental health issues are no longer the persons that they were when they left for the battlefield.
According to one report, depression is five times higher among soldiers than civilians, intermittent explosive disorder is six times higher for soldiers, and they’re 15 times more likely to suffer from Post Traumatic Brain Disorders (PTSD). The significance of the degree to which many also deal with suicidal thoughts or attempt suicide cannot be overlooked either.
With all this in mind, it’s hard to say that they are the same people coming home as they were before they left. It is also for this reason that I say, many of them are also among the lost. No, they are not physically lost, but who they are in personality, is often difficult at best to recognize.
However, this is not a call to mourn them as fallen soldiers. It is to call to our attention that they need to be remembered as well; empathizing with families that have to navigate how best to reintegrate them into life, family and community.
Whether you’ve been personally touched by mental health or have someone who has, remember them this Memorial Day. If they happen to have served in our nation’s armed forces, remember them and their families even the more, with great empathy. May I also add that you say a special prayer for them, that they might find healing, help, and hope.
QUESTION: How will you honor our men and women in the armed forces this Memorial Day and this Mental Health Awareness Month?