The latest report by the Department of Veterans Affairs from July 2016 finds that 20 veterans committed suicide each day in 2014.
In 2010, the Department of Veterans Affairs estimated the veteran suicide rate to be 22 veterans per day, based on three million medical records from 20 states. The 2016 findings were based on 55 million medical records for every state between 1979 and 2014. The new findings opened a whole new discussion of how to best help former servicemen and women.
“One Veteran suicide is one too many,” said VA Under Secretary for Health David J. Shulkin in a VA press release, “and this collaborative effort provides both updated and comprehensive data that allows us to make better-informed decisions on how to prevent this national tragedy.”
This is good news for Air Force veteran Evita Yniquez De La Cruz, a long-time resident of Oak Hills, CA. It’s been over four years since her husband James De La Cruz died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, his suicide attributed to the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that he developed while serving in the Iraq war.
“One Veteran suicide is one too many…”
Healing has come slowly and it is still very painful, but along her path to wholeness, she has seen a light at the end of her harrowing journey. De la Cruz joined a widow’s support group and therapy through a local Vet center when she decided to use her experience to give back to military wives and husbands who have lost their spouses to suicide by starting a non-profit organization, Veteran Suicide Awareness Project (VSAP). For more information or to donate CLICK.
Since starting VSAP, De La Cruz has organized several events including the most popular, “Carry the Fallen Ruck March.” She strategically chooses the dates for the marches: September for Suicide Awareness month, June for National PTSD, and Memorial Day in May. In honor of Veterans Day, Cruz is hosting a Veteran Suicide Project Charity Dinner for donors of VSAP on November 11, 2017.
For the Memorial Day Ruck March, many participants carry American flags with a picture of a deceased loved one. De La Cruz wears a 22-pound rucksack which also holds her husband’s boots still covered in Iraqi dirt. The number 22 represents the 2010 statistics that showed every day, 22 veterans died by suicide.
“That’s a staggering number and I hope to help reduce it by bringing greater awareness to the issue.” De La Cruz said. The newest reports prove that her efforts and other organizations like hers, have indeed made a difference, bringing the number down to 20 veteran suicides per day.
Although this is great news, there are still many vets struggling with PTSD and addictions that often accompany the disease. One problem is the shame that is attached to the struggle with depression. Another side of the issue of PTSD is the family members who are left behind after a loved one commits suicide.
In honor of Veteran’s Day, rather than writing about another parade, although a good thing, we at SoCal Voice want to leave you with some helpful resources available to our servicemen and women and their families.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
Includes a national directory that helps vets find help on a local level. The VA offers a variety of services to vets including help with PTSD and bereavement counseling.
Veteran Suicide Awareness Project (VSAP)
Veteran Suicide Awareness Project (VSAP) is a non-profit organization established by Tech Sergeant Evita Yniguez of the U.S. Air Force.
PTSD Support Group
Online support group with over 41,000 members.
To all Vets: Thank you for your service to our country. May God bless you and your family!