If you’re unsure how to support your loved one this Veterans Day, start with these basics:
- Be empathetic: Empathy is an important first step in making a connection with anyone who is having a difficult time. It may feel impossible to identify with the thoughts and feelings of a loved one that has fought for our country if you haven’t had the experience yourself, but start by breaking down their experiences into relatable feelings. The majority of service members have suffered from loss. If you have suffered a loss, use those feelings and your needs at the time to better understand what words or actions may be helpful to them. While anyone can be affected by depression, anxiety and PTSD, servicemen and women are at a particularly high risk for developing these conditions. If you personally haven’t experienced any of these conditions, but think your loved one may be, learn more about the signs and symptoms here.
- Don’t make assumptions: You don’t have to have all the answers when it comes to knowing what would help your loved one this Veterans Day. Have a conversation with them about it—do they want to attend a parade? Meet up with fellow service members? Lay low and just hang out? Having an honest conversation with your loved one can be an important part of supporting them through what may be a difficult day.
- Know the resources: There are a number of resources available for veterans and active service members. If you remember one resource today, remember the Veterans Crisis Line. Better yet, put the number in your phone in case your loved one is in a crisis and you need to know what to do. The Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Support for deaf and hard of hearing individuals is available.
- Take a screening: Screenings are a quick and easy way to gauge whether your loved one may need to make an appointment with a healthcare professional. The online screenings provided on www.HelpYourselfHelpOthers.org are anonymous, and are offered for a variety of mental health concerns, including depression, generalized anxiety, substance use, PTSD, and bipolar disorder. Whether you take the screening on behalf of your loved one, or they take it themselves, screenings results provide you with local treatment options if your loved one is looking to take the next step.
There are many ways to support your loved one this Veterans Day, but sometimes the simplest things mean the most. Taking the time to let them know you care, being a good listener, and offering support can help them to get through even the toughest of days.