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Veteran Relief Resource Fair to highlight suicide awareness

By Staff | Mar 25, 2022

FDVA-Benefits-GuideSeventeen per day.

6,261 in 2019.

30,177 since 9/11.

114,000 since 2001.

Those who have served in the military have a 50 percent greater risk of suicide than those who never served.

A disproportionate number are younger than 35 where deaths due to suicide are four times higher than the loss of life in military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

According to stopsoldiersuicide.org, there has been an 86% increase in the suicide rate among 18- to 34-year-old male veterans since 2006. At the current rate, by 2030, the total of veteran suicides will be 23 times higher than the number of post-9/11 combat deaths, the site states.

Those are the human losses — dads, moms, brothers, sisters — who came home but then felt they could not stay.

Stopsoldiersuicide.org also reports the monetary costs to our country.

“By 2030, veteran suicide will account for more than $221 billion in public costs,” the website states.

There has been much debate as to what has led to these heartbreaking numbers.

Unaddressed mental health issues and untreated post traumatic stress syndrome have long been cited as factors that must be mitigated.

Area veterans groups understand there are other unmet needs, other issues, as well.

According to a paper presented at a Department of Veterans Affairs/Department of Defense Suicide Prevention Conference in 2019, various challenges researchers called “adverse social determinants” can increase the risk of suicide among veterans.

Situations that can cause risk to spike include housing instability, financial and/or employment problems, legal problems, family and social issues, lack of access to care or transportation and violence, and can be strong predictors of the potential for suicide, the paper’s researchers found.

This weekend American Legion, District 13, which encompasses Lee, Charlotte and Collier counties, will hold an event in partnership with the American Legion Department of Florida Project: VetRelief to call attention to war veteran suicide and its prevention.

They will present a Veteran Relief Resource Fair from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday at American Legion Post 110 in Port Charlotte.

The fair will include information and resources regarding mental health, suicide, therapy or counseling, service dogs, homelessness, caregivers, issues specific to veterans who are women, and family. The Veterans Center Mobile, which helps with PTSD counseling and other services, will be there.

The event will have children’s activities, live music by the veteran band “Blackbird Anthem,” and a Vietnam veteran pinning.

The American Legion also will remember fallen comrades, laying 553 flags, one for each of the veterans in Florida who died of suicide in 2019, the last official count from Veteran Affairs in Florida.

It is fitting that they, and those who have come before, and those who sadly still will come after, be remembered.

And it is mandatory that we, as a country, and we, as a community, work harder to bring those numbers down.

Veterans and families in need may find additional resources at:

* The Florida Department of Veterans Affairs, https://floridavets.org/benefits-services/

* Florida Veterans Benefits Guide 2022. The current guide may be found here or at https://floridavets.org/resources/va-benefits-guide/

* Lee County Veterans Assistance, https://www.leegov.com/dhs/assistance/veteran

* The Lee County VA Healthcare Center, at 2489 Diplomat Parkway, East, Cape Coral, which offers various services. Phone: 239-652-1800

* The Brotherhood of Heroes Resource Center and Museum, at 4522 Del Prado Blvd. South, which serves as the headquarters or meeting place for multiple veterans and support organizations, https://www.thebrotherhoodofheroes.com/resource-center

For those in crisis, the Veterans Crisis Line number, available 24/7, is 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 chat live, or text 838255. The website is www.veteranscrisisline.net

Veterans in Florida can call the Florida Veterans Support Line at 1-844-MyFLVet (693-5838) or 2-1-1.

–Breeze editorial