Recognizing Veterans in Distress & How You Can Help
Recent national news magazines have reported chilling statistics regarding Veteran suicides:
22 Veterans take their own life every day
Nearly one in five suicides is committed by a Veteran
The suicide rate for male Vets under age 30 increased 40% in two years time
It’s further reported that the rates are probably realistically much higher since veteran status is not always notated on death certificates and not all states participated in the research.
Veterans experiencing critical distress have become an epidemic in our country and as a Post community, it’s our duty to assist distressed Vets in getting the help they need. Thankfully, there are outstanding resources available and the latest reports share good news: Veterans who are seeking care are benefiting from it—suicide rates are down for those under VA counseling and care. The VA’s Crisis Line received more than 890,000 calls from October 2006 to June 2013, so it’s helping a good deal of Veterans in need.
Why are Veterans Distressed?
The psychological impact of being part of war zone environment can be very distressing. A Veteran may feel the effects shortly after returning from deployment, or in other cases, may not experience side effects for months or years later. From recurring dreams and haunting memories, uncontrollable anger, insomnia, feelings of helplessness and difficulty concentrating, to alcohol and drug use and thoughts of suicide—the effects can be daunting and life-changing.
But it’s not just the experiences of war or combat that trigger stress. Stress comes in many forms and from many places—some of which are far different from those common in civilian life, and some much the same. Whether related to military service or transition to civilian life, financial worries (including the prospect of homelessness), or relationship, job or health-related issues, stress and crisis affects us all differently and can surface when we least expect it. Help is available through a number of Veteran and community resources, some of which we list below.
Recognizing the Warning Signs
It's not always easy for distressed Veterans to take the step of seeking care on their own. In fact, it’s often thought of as admittance of a mental health problem—a stigma they don’t want to carry or burden their loved ones with. In those times, it’s families, friends and communities who must step in to help. Recognizing signs of distress in your Post members (or in anyone, for that matter) is critical in helping them get the assistance and support they need, and hopefully saves the lives of those in seemingly-dire situations.
The following behaviors are warning signs of depression and/or excessive anxieties, as listed on the Veterans Crisis Line website:
• Appearing sad or depressed most of the time
• Suffering from insomnia or sleeping all the time
• Constantly feeling anxious
• Neglecting personal appearance
• Socially withdrawing from family, friends and activities
• Increasing alcohol consumption; drug use
• Losing interest in hobbies or once-loved activities
• Poor attendance and/or performance at work
• Being easily agitated or angered; trouble managing anger; mood swings
• Expressing feelings of guilt, shame or failure; having little regard for living
• Talking about feeling trapped in a bad situation; there’s no solution
• Trouble concentrating
• Decreased or increased appetite
• Constant aches and pains
Additionally, someone who may be contemplating suicide might behave in ways that seem unusual or disturbing, including:
• Performing poorly at work or school
• Showing violent or self-destructive behavior
• Talking about seeking revenge of something
• Acting recklessly or taking part in risky behavior; “living dangerously”
• Giving away prized possessions or making large donations to charity
• Creating a will
• Purchasing a firearm or other items used for self-harm
Alcohol and Substance Abuse
Alcohol and substance abuse is an affliction that troubles many Veterans and can often be attributed to coping with traumatic experiences during deployment, especially by those suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. While not every person who consumes alcohol is chemically dependent, it’s important to recognize when casual drinking has escalated into a dependence on drinking. At your Post, be aware of patrons who frequent your bar on a regular basis and observe their drinking behavior. Anything that seems out-of-the-ordinary, or is coupled with other warning signs, may be reason for you to take action. There are a lot of resources available for alcohol and drug abuse treatment and recovery that can be instrumental in helping Veterans overcome addictions.
Tools & Resources for Helping Veterans
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers invaluable resources to help and support Veterans and their families through troubled times. If you recognize signs of distress in a Post member, or anyone, encourage them to seek help. Talk to family members and close friends to express your concerns and share these resources with them if they’re not already aware of them. Together, you’re an integral part of helping Veterans overcome mental distress.
Veterans Crisis Line—The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs 24-hour Veterans Crisis Line provides confidential support for veterans and their family members via phone, chat or text.
Please make this information available to every member at your Post!
• Call 1-800-273-8255, press 1
• Text to 838255
• Chat at www.veteranscrisisline.net
• The Veterans Crisis Line also offers a voluntary Self-Check Quiz to help Veterans assess their stress and/or depression at www.vetselfcheck.org. The brief 10-minute quiz is a safe and 100% confidential way to help you start the process of seeking help.
Make the Connection (www.maketheconnection.net)—Make the Connection provides a plethora of valuable information, tools and resources for Veterans and family members by way of shared experiences and personalized support, covering numerous life events and situations.
Mental Health Resources & Screening Tools (www.mentalhealth.va.gov)—Use these free online screening tests for Depression, PTSD and Substance Abuse to help Veterans assess their symptoms and need for further help.
Resources for Homeless Vets (www.va.gov/homeless)—The VA is committed to ending Veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. Resources for tackling this initiative are available on this website. Additionally, homeless Veterans, or those at risk for becoming homeless, should call the VA Help Line for Homeless Vets at 1-877-4AID-VET.
As fellow comrades, we owe it to each other to look out for one another and help ensure positive mental health, well-being and a means to live productively. Please reach out to any Veteran you feel is in distress and provide them with these life-changing resources to get the help they need today.
How's the Security at Your Post?
Burglary, vandalism and theft have a damaging impact on small businesses, costing millions of dollars each year in recovery and repair. Fraternal Posts are no exception to the wrath of thoughtless criminals, with break-ins, vandalism and thefts all too common at Posts across the country. Crimes like these don’t just have an immediate impact. The effects can be lasting—and give members and guests a bad feeling about safety in and around the Post.
One of the easiest ways to deter crime at your Post is to give a good impression about the security you have in place. A well-kept premises shows you keep a watchful eye and have a heightened security awareness. A business that’s rundown or unkempt, on the other hand, can be inviting to criminals, as it sends the message that there are few security measures in place.
The truth is, diligent criminals will work pretty hard to get what they want if they want it bad enough. Your job is to make it as difficult for them as possible and increase their chances of being caught.
Put yourself in the place of someone who might want to gain unlawful entry to your Post or steal from within. Does it look easy? Walk around the outside, and through the inside, and assess the security you have in place. Is it up-to-par? Or, not so much?
Here are things you should look for and processes you should have in place to ensure optimal security:
- Keep the grounds well-groomed, including trash picked up and sidewalks and parking areas in good repair.
- Outside areas should be well-lit including all doors, parking areas and signage.
- Replace burned-out bulbs in signs right away.
- Use motion-activated security lights in less active areas.
- Keep landscaping to a minimum. Trees and shrubbery should be pruned away from doors and windows.
- Look for areas where a criminal could hide in order to gain access to the building. Remove or alter those areas, such as adding lighting.
- Remove any vandalism as soon as it occurs.
Doors and Windows
- Outside security doors should be metal-lined and secured with security crossbars.
- Main doors should have a deadbolt lock installed.
- Consider installing metal grates on windows.
- All windows and doors must be locked after hours.
- Sky lights and ventilation shafts should be protected to deter entry.
- An electronic security (alarm) system is a great deterrent for break-ins.
- Contact the local Police Department for recommendations best suited to your Post’s security needs.
- Learn how to use the system properly.
- If an alarm system is cost-prohibitive, give the impression one is installed by mounting a security system sign at the entry doors.
- Limit the amount of cash and valuables kept in the building.
- Deposit excess cash and large bills into a drop safe until you're able to deposit them.
- Alternate the times of day when bank deposits are made.
- Safes should be fireproof and securely anchored. Safe doors should be left open when it’s empty.
- Keep valuables inside the Post behind lock and key.
- Do not keep valuable paraphernalia in view to the public from the outside.
- Keep an inventory of alcohol on hand.
- Keep an interior light on at all times.
- Create a written policy that outlines employee responsibilities, addresses employee honesty and includes a confidentiality policy for reporting theft
- Use strict hiring practices including running a background check and calling references.
- Limit access to keys and the safe. Any security information provided to an employee should be on a “need-to-know” basis only.
- Money for deposits should be verified by two employees every time, not just one.
- If an employee with access to keys and/or the safe is terminated, change the locks and combinations immediately.
- Keep and monitor an inventory of supplies that an employee might be likely to swipe including bar and office supplies and other valuable items.
Make Community Connections
- Contact the local Police Department and ask them to make routine patrols of the property to check for unusual happenings.
- Work with neighboring businesses or residences to develop a buddy system to keep an eye out for suspicious activity on each other’s property.
How does the security at your Post stack up? In this day and age, you can’t be too trusting—any business is vulnerable to senseless crimes. Take measures now to beef-up your Post’s security—the costs of making some needed improvements now is likely far less than the cost of recovery if your Post becomes the target of crime.
A Note to Our Customers Regarding the Use of your Post for Special Events & Alcohol Service
We understand that it's quite common for Posts to rent their premises to third parties for events that are not organized by the Post. The size and amenities at many Post facilities make them ideal locations for family reunions, wedding receptions, private parties and meetings.
For Posts who are insured in the VFW Post Insurance Program, your General Liability insurance policy coverage automatically provides liability coverage for these "special events". If a guest at one of these events slips and falls and is injured, your insurance policy will provide coverage for the Post.
Alcohol Service at Special Events
It's very common for special events to include alcohol service. Beginning February 1, 2014, there is a change to coverage for events where alcohol is provided and/or served.
If any alcohol is served at an event at your Post that is not a Post-sponsored activity, you must contact your Account Manager with our program to obtain Liquor Liability coverage for each event. You must call at least three business days prior to the date of the event in order to secure this coverage. Please note that payment for the coverage must be made at the time the coverage is added.