Reducing Alabama’s high veteran suicide rate

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — The veteran suicide rate in Alabama is 60% higher than the rate for civilians and 9% higher than other southern states.

It’s estimated that 20 veterans take their own lives each day in the United States. That’s the purpose behind this task force is to provide help to those who need it.

“Anytime you put a human into a high level stressful situation like combat, it does take a toll,” said Kent Davis. 

Alabama is home to roughly 400,000 veterans many of them go on to fight the battle aboard but unfortunately come home to fight another battle.

“One of our missions it to handle those hot button issues and veteran suicides is certainly one of those that we’ve identified as something that needs special attention.”

Kent Davis, the commissioner of the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs, recently selected Paulette Risher, chief executive officer for Still Serving Veterans and a retired Army major general, to lead the new Task Force on Veterans’ Suicides.

The task force will study ways to reduce veterans suicide as well as the causes of suicides among returning Alabama veterans. The task force will then make recommendations to the Legislature.

Rep. Neil Rafferty submitted the House resolution to create the task force. House Joint Resolution 151 noted that the veteran suicide rate in Alabama was 60% higher than the rate for civilians and 9 percent higher than other southern states. More than 16% of all suicide deaths in Alabama are veterans.

“Alabama ranks 2nd in the nation for veteran suicides in the country. This devastating statistic has a particularly personal effect because of the friends and fellow Marines we have lost,” Rafferty said. “The task force aims to bridge the gaps among multiple agencies and community stakeholders to have a coordinated evidence-based and community-informed strategy to more effectively address the crisis of veteran suicide in the state.”

In addition to Risher, the task force will have one representative or veteran appointed by each of the following: the governor, Speaker of the House, Minority Leader of the House, president of the Senate, Senate Minority Leader, Commissioner of the Department of Mental Health, State Health Officer, and Commissioner of the Department of Human Resources.

The Veterans Crisis Line is 1-800-273-8255. 

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