During celebrations such as Veterans Day last week, we tend to highlight the positives, but sometimes there are harder subjects that are often overlooked when it comes to our veterans like their mental health.
Glen Bloomstrom spent years as an Army chaplain and is now the Faith, Community, and Engagement Director for LivingWorks, a suicide prevention training organization. He travels across the country teaching suicide intervention and helping people be comfortable talking about the subject.
“My work is with suicide intervention," said Bloomstrom. “I am a retired U.S. Army chaplain and I'm very passionate about training and responding to suicide.”
Bloomstrom says that 40% of people are touched by suicide in some form, so his work aims to help more people become comfortable talking about suicide openly and help people reach out and connect them to help.
“It's almost like CPR—so we’re passionate about training CPR-type skills but not so suicide prevention,” said Bloomstrom.
Compared to the national average, Montana has nearly double the suicide rate among veterans. In Montana, 57/100,000 veterans die by suicide, compare that to 31/100,000 veterans nationally.
“One of the things about stigma is that it prevents people from getting help,” said Bloomstrom. “You know, boys don't cry and we are always comparing ourselves to one another and we are very hard on ourselves.”
Bloomstrom aims to break down stigmas about suicide among men. He hopes that men across the country and here in Montana are able to become more vulnerable.
“Talk about getting help, benefits of getting help and really confronting some of those attitudes about help-seeking,” said Bloomstrom.
Through his work, he hopes to open that conversation for people.
“Stigma and change is slow. We got to be patient but we need far more advocates talking about suicide prevention and mental health,” Bloomstrom said.
If you or a loved one is struggling, these resources can help:
VA Mental Health Clinic Montana: 406-442-6410
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255