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At this time of year, if you're having a really, really tough time, you're not alone.
You may have heard of people who hurt so much, who thought they had so little to look forward to, that the world would be better off without them.
If you're so down on yourself that there seems to be no other way out, don't do anything until you've finished reading this.
Because you're reading this here, there's a good chance you're in the military, have been in the military or are interested in the military. You may know what we mean by "send up the count". There's a variation of this practice out there that's worth remembering if you or someone you care about is going through a rough time.
"Sending up the count" is something that's done when troops are out somewhere dark and dangerous, and the leader, normally up in front, wants to make sure everyone's still there. The leader whispers, "send up the count" to the next person, who whispers it to the next person, who whispers it to the next person and so on until it gets to the last person in line. That person starts the whispering back forward again, only this time, they start off by tapping the shoulder of the person in front of them saying "one". The next person taps the shoulder of the person in front of them and says "two". This continues until the person behind the leader in front taps the leader's shoulder with the number of people behind the first person in line.
We do this especially at night, when we can't see to the end of the line, or even see the next person. We do this to make sure all is well. We do this to make sure everyone knows that whoever's supposed to be there, front and back, is there. We do this to make sure those on the team are still with the team. And if someone is missing, we find them and bring them back into the group.
This happens in peace, and it happens in war. It also must happen in the sometimes bewildering and frightening transition from war to peace. A vital part of our code is that we don't abandon our fellow soldiers, ever.
We need to remember that our "team" is still together. We will never forget one another; we shared too much. We, each of us, may be weak or broken but the bigger "we," the team, is still strong.
If you know someone who you think feels this bad, or if you haven't heard from colleagues in a while, reading this can give you an easy way to help.
Take it from people who either know people who've harmed themselves or tried, or know family members and friends of those who have.
You cannot know how much of a hole in the lives of others that's left when someone decides they shouldn't be here anymore. It may seem hard, but people want you to be better. To stay around. To be there.
If you need some help, it's easy to feel like you're in the dark, with no hope of help.
If you need some help, you can make sure you're still part of the team.
If you know someone in trouble, you want to see if they're where they're supposed to be, physically as well as emotionally. Help send up the count.
If you know someone who's having trouble, reach out, talk to them and make sure they know there's someone to listen. Help send up the count.
If you're that person needing help, please, please, please don't be afraid to reach out. A call. An email. A text message. Whatever it takes to let people know you're there. Remember your brothers and sisters who covered your back in action are ready to do the same for you today. Help send up the count.
If you haven't spoken to people you've been through terrible times with in a while, reach out. A call. An email. A text message. Whatever it takes to let people know you're all there together. Even if you don't work together in the same place anymore. Help send up the count.
There are a lot of places with people out there to help you if you're going through a rough time, or to help you if you want to help someone going through a rough time. A few of them include:
-- Touch base with any of the Regimental associations you're familiar with from your deployment, just to say hello and be included in their count.
-- There are people out there who've had a tough time, and gotten help from those out there to help - you can click here to send a private message to one willing to help you out.
-- 1-800-883-6094 (Operational Stress Injury Social Support)
-- 1-800-268-7708 (24-Hour Toll-Free Crisis Help Line, Veterans Affairs Canada/Canadian Forces Member Assistance Program)
If nothing else works, call 9-1-1 and explain what you're going through, or what whoever you're worried about is going through. Someone there will help you.
You don't have to suffer alone. You don't have to keep it inside. In fact, it's better to talk about it than keeping it bottled up inside.
Asking for help when you need help isn't weak, it makes sense.
If you need help, or want to help someone who does, send up the count.