Raising awareness of Veteran suicides

Luuk Van Hoomissen Practicum Contributor

OSU campus raising awareness for 22 veteran suicides daily

Today from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oregon State University’s Memorial Union quad will be host to a Veterans’ memorial aimed to raise awareness to the fact that an average of 22 Veterans commit suicide every day.

Donald Phillips, a 27-year-old psychology major and president of the Veterans and Family Student Association, has been coordinating the event and will be conducting it as master of ceremonies.

According to Phillips, the event will display 22 pairs of boots to raise awareness that, according to a 2013 study, an average of 22 veterans took their own lives every day.

“That was predominately Vietnam era veterans,” said Phillips. “In current wars and conflicts the statistic is closer to being twice as likely to commit suicide, and the number is closer to one a day.”

Suicide is not the only mental health issue that veterans are at an increased risk to. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) between the years of 2004 and 2006, and a 2014 analysis, it was shown that 70 percent of homeless veterans met those criteria and that 21 percent of veterans receiving substance abuse treatment were homeless.

“There are a lot of factors that go into it and it’s hard to say which ones exactly are causing it,” said Phillips. “A lot of time veterans are used to putting up with really bad situations. When you’re institutionalized into something like the military you don’t really get to complain. Once you’re transferred to the civilian world and you’re not really surrounded by people who have gone through the same things as you, it can be hard to relate, hard to express yourself, and hard to find a better way to change your situation because you are used to getting the short end of the stick.”

In a report by the Department of Veterans Affairs that surveyed 21 states over 9 fiscal years, Veterans made up an approximate 22.2 percent of 147,463 suicides. That adds up to 27,062 Veteran suicides.

This event is designed to encourage OSU students as a community to normalize conversations about mental health to remove the stigma and shame experienced by many individuals who suffer from mental health disorders, so they are more likely to seek the help they need.

“When you attach stigma to something it brings shame to it,” said Phillips. “On college campuses, statistics show that one in four students is suffering from a diagnosable mental health disorder. When you look at it that way it is a lot more common than people think. Because when you look around everyone seems to have it under control, and that’s just an illusion.”

This is one the first events to be hosted by the Veterans and Family Student Association since it was reformed at the beginning of the academic year. They will be hosting another event for memorial day in two weeks. Their goal in these events is to raise as much awareness as possible about the mental health issues facing veterans.

“We’ve lost more soldiers in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to suicide than we have to actual combat.” said Phillips. “And that, in my opinion says we have a flaw in the system. They’re not getting the help they need and it’s time that we take another look at how we are helping.”

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