Veterans Day has become extra special to Americans.
We saw that Saturday and throughout the week as people in the Lima region went out of their way to thank military veterans for their service. Some folks even quietly paid the dinner bills of veterans at local restaurants.
Naturally, it makes one feel good to perform such gestures, as it should. But all is not well for many of those who have served our country. The same holds true for their children and the youngsters who they’ve strived to protect.
We’re talking about suicide and the ugly stigma that is attached to it.
With 2.8 million service members deployed since 2001, veterans and their families are facing unique challenges abroad and at home. As many as one-fifth of those who have served in the global war on terror have post-traumatic stress disorder, and approximately one in five have a traumatic brain injury.
The end result: Nearly 20 percent of all adult suicide deaths in the United States are by military veterans, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
It gets worse when one factors in what is happening to today’s youth.
In Ohio, suicide is the leading cause of death among 10- to 14-year-olds and the second-leading cause of death among those between 15 and 34.
On average, one person dies by suicide every five hours in the Buckeye state.
That’s beyond tragic.
It’s why suicide prevention efforts by people such as state Rep. Marlene Anielski of the Cleveland area are so important. Her goal is to make sure people know there is help available for anyone who is struggling.
“Sometimes even saying the word ‘suicide’ is uncomfortable, so we are working hard to break through that stigma,” Anielski told a gathering Wednesday at the Statehouse. “Understanding all of the options and resources that are out there is the first step toward overcoming this silent epidemic.”
It’s time to step up.
Our servicemen and women have fought for our freedom, and now it’s our turn to not only help them, but to help the young people who are the future of our country.
Suicide is the result of an illness and needs to be treated as such.
Anielski is committed to putting together a comprehensive plan which features primary prevention, access to treatment, and post-intervention support. She helped get $2 million appropriated for suicide prevention efforts, including the expansion programs on college campuses.
People need to understand there is hope if they’ll only reach out for it.
It must be made clear that getting help for mental illness is a sign of strength, not weakness.