RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The alarming number of veterans taking their own lives is prompting new bills on Capitol Hill.
More resources, dollars and attention are being invested into veterans’ mental health than ever before. However, according to a U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs 2019 report, among U.S. adults, the average number of suicides per day remained relatively the same from about 16 suicides per day in 2005 to about 17 in 2017. The report says veterans ages 18–34 had the highest suicide rate in 2017.
U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) visited Richmond Monday to share a bipartisan bill that will soon reach the full senate.
“There’s an awful lot of organizations around Virginia that are focused on mental health, focused on suicide prevention, but what we’ve not done is a good job at matching up the veterans with those services,” he told 8News, “We lose about 17 veterans a day in this country.” Warner called it a “national embarrassment” and “national tragedy.”
The senator said less than twenty percent of veterans who take their lives reached out to their local Veteran Affairs office for help.
His proposal aims to connect veterans with resources and would grant more money to existing mental health-focused veteran organizations.
Before landing at Sitter and Barfoot veterans care center, Army veteran William Taylor was in the service for 27 years. Taylor served in both Korea and Vietnam.
Taylor said he knows a veteran who took his life.
“They come back from the war and something happened,” Taylor said.
Dana Rivera, who works with some struggling Veterans at Sitter and Barfoot Veteran’s Care Center said the nation was a serious mental health problem.
“For some it’s what they saw, for some it’s what they did,” she said. “I don’t think there’s enough resources out there being dedicated, to deal with people who really feel that they’d be better off dead.”
The bill goes to the full Senate next. Stay with 8News for updates.