November 8, 2016

Do You Know 20 Veterans? Call Them

By Tai of Allsup

Do you love a veteran? Tell them. I called my dad after hearing Meghan Voorhees, LCSW, from the suicide prevention team at the VA St. Louis Health Care System, speak at a gathering of social workers and mental health advocates last month.

The VA reports about 20 veterans die by suicide each day. One of many things I took away from Ms. Voorhees’ talk is that I will not use the term “committed suicide” anymore. People “commit” crimes. Visit for more on the topic.

I learned there are three main factors present in veteran suicides:

  1. Loss of a feeling of belonging
  2. Feeling of being a burden
  3. Capability of self harm

Service men and women experience a strong sense of belonging when they are in a military unit. They spend time with people they know “have their back” and who share a common mission.

“When they leave active duty, it is no longer a part of their day to day lives,” Voorhees said.

Leaving the service with a chronic illness or disability, and being unable to find work, may cause veterans to feel like they are burdens to their friends, families and society.

In addition, veterans have a higher capability of self-harm than the general population. They have been trained to use firearms, are comfortable around guns and have access to them.

In light of this, the group wanted to know the best way to provide pre-emptive education. The consensus? Raise awareness. Talk about it. Offer help.

I’ve been privileged to take part in efforts to do that in the Metro East St. Louis area.

This is the third year Allsup is sponsoring the No Family Left Behind Conference and Connection Fair. The event helps veterans and military families connect with resources to address mental health and practical needs, and improve their quality of life.

This event provides a free, safe and supportive forum to discuss issues such as suicide, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and living with a disability—topics not often discussed openly or even privately, due to stigma, misunderstanding and ignorance.

In addition to veteran suicides, other numbers demand our attention:

  • 5.25 - average number of service-connected disabilities of VA disability recipients in 2015
  • 379,350 pending VA disability claims
  • 4 million veterans with a mental health service-related disability, including PTSD, major depressive disorder and anxiety who are receiving VA disability benefits
  • 5 million military caregivers

As Veterans Day approaches, seek out and support local activities.

Use social media to observe the day and promote resources such as the Veterans Crisis Line at (800) 273-8255, VA Caregiver Support Line at (855) 260-3274, and the Allsup Veterans Disability Appeal Service® at

Call a veteran and tell them you appreciate them. I’ll be calling 20.

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