JACKSONVILLE, NC (WITN) – Monday was World Mental Health Day.
According to Veterans Affairs Canada’s annual suicide report, suicide is the second leading cause of death for all veterans between the ages of 18 and 44.
Now, resources are being expanded to help reduce these rates among service members.
Mental health is a struggle that extends well beyond time spent in service.
“When you’re on a mission, you’re just focused on getting the job done to get everyone home,” said Navy veteran Eric Sowers.
Speaking of returning home, Sowers said: “I think it’s a little more difficult because it’s another mission, it’s a personal mission, when it’s just you… and many of us don’t feel like we deserve…even though we’ve deserved these different benefits.
Sowers, who says he has suffered from PTSD and suicidal thoughts, says one of the many challenges to getting help in his area is finding it.
“I would say it’s a lot harder because it doesn’t feel like the resources are here in North Carolina…at least I can say that,” Sowers said.
Experts say the numbers back up Sowers’ sentiment. They say 20% to 30% of veterans commit suicide, and of those, only 20% to 30% are contacted by the VA.
“It’s extremely common, you know? It fights heart disease, cancer, and all those known health issues that veterans suffer from. We train veterans to suffer in silence and then expect them to cry out for help and that doesn’t always happen,” said Tim Driscoll of Veterans Services of the Carolinas.
With federal funding now earmarked to address the issue, Driscoll says about $3 million will go to resources at Carolina Veterans Services and other organizations in partnership with the VA for suicide prevention.
“They recognize that these veterans are elsewhere in the community, so this was the first attempt by the VA to prevent suicide in a different way,” Driscoll said.
Sowers being someone who has learned healthy coping mechanisms, he sees this as an opportunity to pay it forward.
“Because I have the experience going there, I can help other veterans here, come in and deal with the same things I did, a little anger and everything,” Sowers said. “And it’s not that there’s anything wrong with you, [you] have a situation that needs to be addressed.
Driscoll says part of the VA suicide prevention funding includes statewide education to certify anyone who may be interested in mental health, first aid and CPR, and suicide prevention techniques. suicide. The link to register is here.
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