Updated: Oct 12
About five to seven years ago, I was honored to be invited by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to attend a veterans suicide prevention planning meeting for Michigan sponsored by SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.) SAMHSA had assembled teams in every state of the country and organized a planning schedule for each team to work on independently and then report back to the facilitators in Washington, D.C. I listened very closely to the national speakers as well as interacted with my colleagues in Lansing, and I was struck that there was no talk of the importance of having meaning and purpose in overcoming suicidal ideation and behavior.
So, I raised the question with the group, and they seemed stunned. They challenged me. If there was a meaning and purpose to be had, what would it be? My answer was that meaning and purpose are what we should be working to achieve in recovery. I went home from that experience thinking, "How can that not be standard practice?"
As I embarked on the study of philosophy in the years that followed, I discovered that meaning and purpose are elusive in that context as well. So, I have continued to study it. I recently discovered this definition of purpose:
Purpose, when applied to work, means that what we do as work serves something greater than just ourselves. -- Gui Curi (Medium.com)
I really like that definition, particularly by the emphasis on others, because it is a concept I focus on in philosophy. Having purpose differs from being goal-directed in that instead of setting a pre-defined target that you are striving to achieve, you are reacting to what you find and sense. From that, you can develop a process-oriented approach as an alternative.
Developing a relationship with something greater than ourselves requires that approach. I am currently reading, "A Purpose-Driven Life" by Pastor Rick Warren and he says that you cannot have purpose without God. However, a sizable portion of the world operates without belief in God. I think the definition of purpose above should work for both believers and non-believers alike.
As much as possible, I try to put my personal philosophy into practice in my life. The RealitySeeker project is very much an example of that. I spend a great deal of time talking to people about these ideas and working to give clarity to something I can work on daily. This is my purpose-driven life.
I want to give purpose to veterans who are struggling. I had a long conversation a couple of weekends ago with a veteran who isn't working and who said he missed the purpose that working with his unit gave him. I think the purpose and flow offered by projects such as this can help alleviate the anxiety and depression that afflict veterans who are struggling. I think the same principle is true of other Americans with mental health challenges. So, I'm undertaking this project to spread the message.
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