By Faye Gaston
May is "Mental Health Awareness Month." It is also the month we commemorate Veterans on Memorial Day, on May 31. There is a movement to raise awareness about veteran suicide prevention. Seventeen veterans in the U.S. are dying by suicide per day.
In Alabama, veteran suicide is even higher than the national average and significantly higher than the national civilian average.
Recently released data shows that nearly 18% of suicides in Alabama are veterans, though only 9.1% of Alabamians have served as veterans.
Male veterans die by suicide at a rate 1.3 times higher than civilian counterparts, and for women veterans, it is 2.1 times higher.
On May 14, 2021, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey spoke at a media event about the "new statewide suicide prevention initiative" for service members, veterans, and their families. She said, "Once someone has served our great nation, we owe it to the great men and women to help them enter civilian life. I can think of no better way to say 'thank you for your service' than ensuring these heroes and their families have access to mental health resources when in need."
The movement is to investigate the causes of and prevention of suicides among veterans. The media event at the Alabama Capitol on May 14 was attended by representatives from Alabama's Challenge for Preventing Suicide Among SMVF (Service Members, Veterans, Families), the Alabama Legislature, the Alabama Department of Veteran Affairs, the Alabama Department of Mental Health, the Alabama Department of Public Health, the Alabama National Guard, non-profits, and including "Still Serving Veterans" and Veteran Recovery Resources.