Did you know 17 veterans commit suicide every day in the United States? This is just one of the many frightening statistics I learned at the First Annual IMAlive.org Training Conference in Washington DC in September.
So why don’t these veterans seek the professional help the military has to offer? Well, the answer is quite simple: no soldier wants to be viewed as weak or not capable of his/her job by other soldiers. IMAlive.org seeks to help soldiers avoid the barriers that keep them from making an office appointment with a psychologist; instead, the organization offers soldiers and other individuals a safe environment through an online chat with one of the volunteers.
IMAlive.org is online crisis center powered by the Kristin Brooks Hopeline Network where individuals considering suicide or dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder can go to chat with someone who is trained in Online Counseling and Suicide Intervention. Reese and Elena Butler are the co-founders of IMAlive.org and are dedicated to helping individuals make a plan in order to get through their crisis.
On my way home from the conference, I had an experience only God could have foreseen. My electric wheelchair allowed me to get through security with ease, even skipping in line. As a reward for myself, I got an Aunt Annie’s pretzel and a Coke.
I found my gate and got a tag for my wheelchair. Then I went to find a table close by where I could enjoy my snack. Two soldiers (a man and a woman) were enjoying a drink at the nearby bar , but when the bar got crowded, the soldiers asked to sit at my table. I gladly agreed, although there were plenty of empty tables. Another female soldier arrived and went to get coffee with the male soldier.
The female soldier who stayed at the table with me and her beer introduced herself and asked me what I did in DC. I told her about the conference, what I learned about veterans, and the website. She said she was the leader of her team and worried about her younger teammates. I asked her if she stressed the importance of taking care of one’s mental health, and she said yes, but she fights the stigma of asking for help with both her female and male teammates. I gave her my business card so that she could email me for more information on IMAlive.org.
Then she opened up to me by explaining how she personally knew someone in the recent helicopter crash, which still brought tears to her eyes. She fought to get her composure back before her teammates came back. I simply held her hand for literally a few seconds and said I would pray for her, which she appreciated.
When her teammates returned, the three of them went to their gate. Although I gave her my business card so I could get her more information, I never heard from her. I do keep her and her team in my prayers nevertheless.
IMAlive.org has important work to do to end all suicides. I am praying about going through the Online Counseling and Suicide Intervention training in the near future. In fact, I am heading back to Washington DC for a second conference for IMAlive this coming weekend to learn more on how to help individuals with thoughts of suicide. Due to my own struggle with depression, I am not sure if it is the best opportunity for me. However, I do believe in the mission of IMAlive and want to learn about the warning signs of suicide tendencies and where to direct individuals who battle with suicide thoughts. Being broken takes all forms, and we are all broken in some way. It is important to recognize the brokenness and to help each other in the healing process.
If you are interested in becoming an online crisis volunteer or donating to support this organization, please go to www.IMAlive.org for more information.
If you are in crisis and need to chat with someone, go to www.IMAlive.org and click the green Chat Now button to chat with a highly trained online crisis intervention volunteer.
If you or someone you know is currently in danger, please dial 911 immediately. It could save a life.
God the Healer and IMAlive are not officially connected in anyway.