WASHINGTON – The 2012 numbers on military suicide are shocking: Once every 25 hours, a U.S. service member took their own life.
That’s a 16 percent increase from the year before, and the statistic does not include suicides among veterans, according to the Department of Defense.
“We’ve been screaming from the mountaintops about this,” says Paul Rieckhoff, founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “We’ve been telling everybody we could that there’s a major suicide problem.”
Rieckhoff says the need for help is increasing, while a shortage in services continues.
“There aren’t enough mental health programs, there aren’t enough qualified mental health care workers,” he says.
There is also a shortage of psychiatrists and psychologists to take care of service members and veterans, he adds.
“We need a national call to action where the president stands up and says, ‘If you want to help our troops, go work in the mental health space and come help us reduce the suicide number,'” he says.
Every person in the community can help, he says.
“If you could bring a vet out to a baseball game. If you can get them back in school. If you can get them a job, they are really much more likely to be successful and not have problems down the road,” Rieckhoff says.
He urges any service member or veteran who may be dealing with PTSD, or any mental health concern, to reach out for help.
“These veterans should know they’re not alone. Other people have been down this road and we’re here to help.”