Military Matters: Preventing veteran suicide

MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs' latest suicide data, Alabama had over 100 veteran suicides in 2017 and Mississippi had about 50.

U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie says one suicide is too many.

"The tragedy with suicide is bigger than veterans,” said Wilkie. “We're seeing suicide numbers explode all over the country."

As an effort to stop veteran suicides, President Trump signed an executive order for PREVENTS, or the Presidents Roadmap to Empower Veterans to End the National Tragedy of Suicide.

The executive order calls for the establishment of a suicide prevention task force.

"This task force is so important because it's going to give those groups and the local governments the opportunity and the resources to go out and help us get those 14 veterans a day who take their lives and we have no contact with,” said Wilkie.

The president said overall, PREVENTS is a plan that will help the U.S. empower veterans and end high rates of suicide.

Many military establishments across the U.S., including NAS Meridian, have mental health programs available on base.

Air traffic controller first class, Nathan Woodlee, serves as Assistant Suicide Prevention Coordinator.

"You don't have to necessarily want to attempt it to get help,” said Woodlee. “If you're feeling distraught, if you're feeling the weight of stress and everything like that on your shoulders, there are avenues where people can go get help and achieve that help."

Woodlee says NAS Meridian has several helpful resources like counseling at the Fleet and Family Support Center.

"That way we can identify people that have issues and have problems that they want to seek help,” said Woodlee. “So that way we're essentially saving lives so nobody is ending their life."

Having access to the proper resources and people is a small thing that can make a big difference in the lives of our military men and women.

Call the Fleet and Family Support Center at 601-679-2360.