Mental health struggles, suicide high among servicemembers

Veteran organizations say showing support for past and active soldiers could help reduce the high number of mental health issues

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – May is Mental Health Awareness month and Military Appreciation month, and the two have more in common than you may think. Veterans organizations say more support for our servicemembers might help reduce an alarming suicide rate.

In Kentucky, around 17 veterans commit suicide every day, according to Veteran’s Club INC.

“Oftentimes, I think as Americans and just as people, we forget and take for granted the freedoms that we have but these, as you know, aren’t free and they do come with a cost,” says Jeremy Harrell, founder and CEO of Veteran’s Club INC. “For some, it’s their lives, and then for others, it’s their lives as well but it’s almost like a slow death because you know, they don’t leave the battlefield when they come home.”

Some veterans’ organizations say servicemembers both past and active can struggle with their mental health with things like depression, anxiety and PTSD. For many, mental health still carries a stigma of being ‘weak’ and veteran organizations say this stigma, coupled with fear of medical discharge, can sometimes make it even harder for a soldier to admit when they need help.

“You think if you go in the military, you’re supposed to be tough and to say you’ve got mental health issues could show weakness in their mind,” says Phyllis Abbott, executive director of Lady Veterans Connect.

“The stigma is real and we work every day to try to mitigate that because the worst thing is when you’re need help and you’re afraid to say it,” says Harrell. “We’ve got to make it OK.”

Some veteran organizations say one good thing to come out of COVID is more awareness and acceptance of mental health. These organizations say along with this acceptance should come appreciation for soldiers, especially those from Vietnam or Afghanistan where some veteran organizations say tension is still high between civilians and servicemembers.

“If you’re showing appreciation for your veterans, they’re less likely to be depressed and have the mental issues. If you’re ignoring them and not saying ‘thank you for your service’, then they’re feeling neglected,” says Abbott.

Both Veteran’s Club INC. and Lady Veterans Connect have resources available for veterans to connect with support groups and find a community.

The Veteran’s Club INC. website can be found HERE.

Click HERE to be taken to the Lady Veterans’ Connect website.

To find a VA location near you, click HERE.

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