On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed an order to create a cabinet-level task force he says will “mobilize every level of American society” to address the suicide crisis among veterans. Suicide rates among veterans continue to be higher than the rest of the US population, with about 20 veterans taking their lives daily.
“Veterans suicide has been something that has been incredible to watch, hard to believe,” says President Trump.
The President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and the National Tragedy of Suicide, or PREVENTS, will work with communities on understanding the underlying factors of suicide and plan methods for addressing it on federal and local levels. PREVENTS will bring in various departments to share information and combat veterans suicide.
Robert Wilkie, Veterans Affairs Secretary, says, “It will bring in the Department of Defense, Department of Health & Human Services, NIH, and sets the stage for us to go beyond the traditional barriers.”
For Laura Stradley, the Executive Director of the Veterans Outreach Center in Rochester, preventing veteran suicide is paramount.
“I mean, that’s the thing I think we find to be the most important work we can do every day,” says Stradley. And the effort goes beyond just the VOC. She adds, “It takes the work of a community to pull together and identify these men and women who are struggling.”
Statistics show, out of those 20 veterans who take their lives daily, 14 are not involved with veterans organizations. Stradley believes one method for suicide prevention is for vets to get involved with the VA, the VOC and other organizations adding, “It lowers their risk tremendously.”
Stradley adds suicide prevention is extremely hard work and stressed again she’s excited the administration is recognizing that, hopefully putting some funds and efforts to the mission of the Veterans Outreach Center.