NAS MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - “Veterans suicide is a real issue in the United States,” says Stacey Pickering, the executive director of the Mississippi Veterans Affairs. “Over 20 veterans a day commit suicide, and when you look at Mississippi’s numbers we trend right along with those national averages when it comes to population.”
According to the most recent data from the Veterans Affairs, around 50 veterans died by suicide in Mississippi alone in 2016.
The Mississippi VA held a training session at NAS-Meridian Tuesday for local clergy so they can look for indicators of suicide among veterans that attend their place of worship.
“It’s important because as our veterans are coming home from wars, they’re not just coming home, but their coming to our local churches and places of worship,” says Matthew Purmort, the command chaplain at NAS-Meridian. “And so we want to give our local clergy the resources that they need to take care of the veterans as they show up into their places of worship.”
Participants we spoke to say they learned a lot from the event and explain the importance of having discussions about suicide prevention.
“The cost of war are just not in the current budget, and the repercussions from that will ripple throughout the next generations,” says Father Don Chancellor, the director of Holy Innocence Episcopal Church in Como, MS. “Having systems and having awareness in the local community, which is where people are going to pop-up, provides a safer landing zones for those veterans that might be in crisis.”
Training sessions are also taking place at Camp McCain, Camp Shelby, and Keesler Air Force Base.
“This is a great opportunity for us to sort of see what systems are already available to veterans that may already be in our communities and our churches,” Chancellor says.
The veterans crisis line is 1-800-273-8255.