Veterans Suicide Awareness: Protecting the ones who protected us

Nov. 11 is Veterans Day, when veterans and families remember the sacrifices made on our behalf. However, there are some vets who never stopped making sacrifices. Around this Veterans Day, civilians and military alike must take measures in reducing Vet suicide rates.

Studies conducted by the Veterans Affairs (VA) Suicide Prevention Program suggest that 20 veterans a day die from self-harm. While 18 percent of veterans make up the total amount of suicide rates among adults, when only 8.5 percent of the population are veterans. That makes veteran suicide a much larger epidemic. However, there are programs in place that help at-risk veterans. One program specifically is the National Alliance to End Veterans Suicide, whose purpose lies only in their name. President Tony Dayton summarizes the program’s intent to raise awareness and ultimately eliminate suicide.

“We get 18 veterans a day on average. 3-4 years ago, Veterans suicide was almost unheard of. Now we have the awareness, so we need to start eliminating the problem,” Said Dayton. Dayton started working on the program after he got shot in the stomach during his Iraq tour in 2005. “I hit a low during my tour and I slowly regained myself through this program.” For many military members, this was a similar case.

Vanessa Marie Morbeck who is a prospecting student and veteran, who was discharged for reporting her sexual assaults to the U.S. Army, faced reprisal and then ultimately discharged. As of now, she battles with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), which leads to anxiety following her event. She has contemplated suicide but finds motivation from her daughter. “My daughter keeps me going. I honestly wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her.” For many veterans, it is hard to seek the help they need because of the stigma associated with counseling. “In the military, there is a culture of [pride] so it is harder for them to get help,” says temporary Fort Steilacoom counselor Liz Scott. Especially when many veterans feel like their voice is not heard and can’t relate with a civilian counselor, or they simply can’t find the right one.

“There’s a certain language that exists between military service members. Sometimes it is hard to communicate what you are feeling to a civilian when they have not gone through the same thing,” Tony Dayton said. Sometimes the veterans want receive help but don’t know where to find it. For Pierce College Veterans Student Success coach Vicki Bell, there is no guarantee that every veteran who comes to her has the right resources. “Sometimes I feel dread because I don’t know if they [veterans] are getting the help they need.”