WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Latest statistics show on average, 20 veterans commit suicide every day. While that number is down from a few years ago, it’s still shockingly high – compared with the general population.
Thursday evening, the Mental Health Association in Forsyth County, along with Veterans Administration, and a number of other mental health organizations held a panel discussion focusing on the topic: suicide among veterans.
Experts and veterans themselves say the particular reasons why the rate is significantly higher are not certain. But, it is - and it's higher among middle age and older veterans. They say the goal now is making sure people know about getting the services and help they need before it's too late.
Harold Moore spent 16 years in the military, in combat duties and as a drill sergeant.
“In the military we're taught to suck it up, we're taught to move on, to keep going - no pain, no gain,” he said, “So a lot of veterans that have early warning signs they miss going to get the help that they need.”
Now out of the service, he works as a peer support specialist, because he's battled PTSD and other illnesses. He's been in the shoes of veterans in crisis.
“You feel a lot of hopelessness – a lot of depression, not having the answers,” he said.
“Veterans make up about 7 or 8 percent of the population,” said Tiffany Hall, a suicide prevention care manager, “They make up about 18 percent of the suicides nationwide.”
The licensed clinical social workers with the VA say to curb that statistic, they need veterans to know the warning signs - and that there are options. Tonight's panel discussion attempted just that.
“I think that's the question – why is veteran suicides so much higher than the general population,” said Bill Hayes, a social worker and veteran himself.
Hayes, another panelist speaking on his own experience, turned his bipolar disorder diagnosis into a way to help others. He says every veteran is different - and needs their voice to be heard.
“[Veteran suicide] is a tragedy, it is something that is horrible, it is something that needs to be addressed by our society,” he said.
Of the 20 veterans who take their own lives each day, 14 were not connected to VA services. Confidential support is available 24 hours a day. The number to the Veterans Crisis Hotline is 1(800)273-8255, then press one.