“My nephew has threatened suicide several times since returning from Afghanistan,” she said. “He seems so close to doing it. We’re constantly worried about him.” A total stranger from another town was telling me this when we were both getting our nails done. “I just wish I knew how to get him some help.”
Thanks to a group of churches (pastors and members), along with other interested community organizations in her town, I could direct her to a local pastor who was passionate about helping soldiers coming home with PTSD and suicide ideation. All over Arkansas communities and churches are coming together to be ready when the need arises.
In our state the local VA assists in forming these groups, but realistically, they can form without VA assistance. Representatives from churches, directors of non-profits, members of law enforcement, local business owners, and other interested parties meet monthly and discuss issues affecting returning veterans. They gather resources and put together guides to those resources.
Community within community begins to happen in these interest groups and, as a result, they can offer emotional strength, spiritual support, mental health referrals and friendship when a need arises. Through one of these groups I knew of a pastor in her nephew’s town who was ready and willing to reach out to a veteran in trouble. That is networking!
Dianne Swaim writes from North Little Rock, Arkansas, where she belongs to a very missions-minded church in the heart of downtown Little Rock.
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