AMVETS Post 1776 in Logan raised about $1100 for Save The 22 on March 31, 2018. The fundraiser was a vendor and craft show with a portion of the proceeds going to the initiative whose aim is prevent military and veteran suicide.
Military and veteran suicide is at epidemic levels. AMVETS Save The 22 is dedicated to bring those numbers down to zero in Ohio.
In a 2017 interview with Cincinnati's WCPO, Debbie Winkler, mother of Matthew Winkler who took his own life in 2016, said, "We teach them how to be soldiers, but we don’t teach them how to be civilians (when they leave the military). When we teach them how to be soldiers they have a purpose, but when they come out of the military they don’t have a purpose anymore.”
But many of these veterans in trouble do not want to die. They just think that it's the only way out from the demons circling around inside their heads.
The problem is so pervasive because signs of self-harm can be very hard to spot. Often the warning signs are so subtle that they can be easy to miss.... until it's too late.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Veterans (VA) has a comprehensive list of what to look for.
Most individuals who are considering suicide or self-harm often show the following signs:
Appearing sad or depressed most of the time
Clinical depression: deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating—that doesn’t go away or continues to get worse
Feeling anxious, agitated, or unable to sleep
Neglecting personal welfare, deteriorating physical appearance
Withdrawing from friends, family, and society, or sleeping all the time
Losing interest in hobbies, work, school, or other things one used to care about
Frequent and dramatic mood changes
Expressing feelings of excessive guilt or shame
Feelings of failure or decreased performance
Feeling that life is not worth living, having no sense of purpose in life
Talk about feeling trapped—like there is no way out of a situation
Having feelings of desperation, and saying that there’s no solution to their problems
Performing poorly at work or school
Acting recklessly or engaging in risky activities—seemingly without thinking
Showing violent behavior such as punching holes in walls, getting into fights or self-destructive violence; feeling rage or uncontrolled anger or seeking revenge
Looking as though one has a “death wish,” tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving fast or running red lights
Giving away prized possessions
Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, and/or making out a will
Seeking access to firearms, pills, or other means of harming oneself
The latest data from the VA shows that one in 20 military members and veterans commit suicide everyday.
The best thing that one can do is to watch out for these signs among your buddies and act quickly to get that individual help as soon as possible. But how? And more importantly, where?
The VA in partnership with the DOD runs a program nationwide called #BeThere, which is a comprehensive, aggregate website and companion social media channels that puts resources right at a individual and caregiver's fingertips.
On the VA side, it links individuals to the various mental health websites and resources on the national level such as the Vet Center program, the National Center for PTSD and more.
And on the DOD side, intervention comes in the form of a collaborative approach to stem the suicide epidemic that starts with the The Defense Suicide Prevention Office (DSPO). The DSPO "provides advocacy, program oversight, and policy for Department of Defense suicide prevention, intervention and postvention efforts to reduce suicidal behaviors in Service members, civilians and their families."
Each branch of service has their own suicide prevention offices which fall under the DSPO and each base has a local suicide prevention program for the greater base population and the communities it serves.
Dr. Keita Franklin, DSPO director, said in a statement on the DSPO website, "We are committed to fostering collaboration and cooperation to develop suicide prevention efforts among all stakeholders including the Military Services; Federal agencies; public, private, international entities, and institutions of higher education."
Save The 22 is one such local entity that expands the outreach of national programs such as the DSPO and the VA into local communities where veterans are often underserved.
And outside of military circles, this problem goes mostly unnoticed by the general public.
The state of Ohio wants to change that.
The Ohio House passed a bill this past December designating the first Saturday in May as “Veterans Suicide Awareness Day.”
House Bill 202, which was introduced to the Senate Local Government, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committee on April 17, will now go before the Senate for consideration.
The month of May was chosen as it is military appreciation month with Memorial Day falling at the end of the month.
The bill is co-sponsored by State Reps. Andy Thompson (R-Marietta) and Laura Lanese (R-Grove City).
It is hoped that this designation will serve as a catalyst for communities in Ohio to stand up and take notice that this problem is worth paying attention to because one military or veteran taking his or her life is too many.