SPRINGFIELD, Mo.–According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, 20 veterans a day commit suicide.
In Our Courageous Conversation, KOLR10 explores the topic of veteran suicide and what can be done to help stop the epidemic by providing vets with the resources of where to turn for help in this story.
For far too many veterans, returning home from war doesn’t mean that combat is over. Instead, they take on a new fight, the battle of emotions.
“I struggled with depression, and I really struggled with suicide. At one point, I actually had to be hospitalized because of it,” says veteran, Devin Beatty.
Beatty was a maintenance analyst in the Air Force never fighting in war, but still missed the comradery of his comrades.
“Getting out of the military, it can be very challenging. For me, it was more loneliness than anything. When you’re in the military, you always have a lot of brothers and sisters who are around you,” says Beatty.
Loneliness can be one of many reasons why veterans resort to suicide so the staff at the Vet Center in Springfield are committed to offering help. Combat veteran turned outreach specialist, Rob Freeman explains.
“What we do here is therapeutic. We do everything from anger management to family marriage counseling and those are a lot of things that will key up and it’s all based around PTSD, a combat environment,” says Freeman.
According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, in the year 2014, 207 vets committed suicide in Missouri with the majority of them being men in the 55-74 age range.
In Arkansas, 100 vets committed suicide with the majority of them also being men in the 55-74 age range.
As for Springfield’s veteran suicide numbers…
“I’d say on average once every 4 to 6 months we hear about a veteran here locally committing suicide and that’s just what we hear about, but it’s very prevalent,” says Freeman.
Which is why the Vet Center offers free services 5 days a week including walk-ins.
“There are several entities that are willing to help veterans. We’re here, the outpatient clinics are here, the hospitals are here. 1-877 War Vets and if you get that distressed, call that number. Got to make the call, worse case scenario, call 911” says Freeman.
Besides therapy sessions, Beatty has found help with his PTSD through his therapy dog, Lilly.
“At one point, I was on at least 14 different medications,” says Beatty.
Trained for free by K9’s for Camo-founded by John Lopez.
“With proper training, they can help vets with PTSD, in public, helping other people give space to them so we’ll teach them to block and post so that if someone walks up behind the veteran, they’ll alert them or paw at them to let them know that someone’s coming up and can prevent different types of meltdowns or outbreaks that can happen with someone with PTSD,” says Lopez.
Lopez says the dog is provided for free and it can take 6 to 8 weeks of training before a veteran gets the dog.
Marine, Craig Trimmell is meeting his dog for the first time.
“There’s issues that come up and I know that Annie’s been trained for certain instances like that since any symptoms come along and for ease of mind and to help me kind of relax and calm down,” says Trimmell.
“I know I sometimes have nightmares and Lilly wakes me up from those so in that sense, she’s my hero,” says Beatty.
Construction is currently underway on a VA clinic that will open in Springfield on 1850 West Republic Street at the end of this year where walk-ins will be accepted.
Services at that new VA clinic will include management with depression, anxiety, psychosis, and medications.
Staff will also treat veterans with substance abuse and mental health issues.
For those vets needing in-home medical care, there will be options for that as well.