Taking steps to aid veterans and mental health

Lauren Phillips

September is national suicide awareness month. An estimate of 22 U.S. veterans will commit suicide a day, according to The Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA). Kent State University is a top military-friendly school striving to help each U.S. veteran student, according to the Center for Adult and Veteran Services website.  

“We have about 400 veterans, an additional 100 military service members, those are National Guard students who have not been deployed,” said Dawn Pugh, Assistant Director of Adult and Veteran Services. “Then there’s an additional probably 50 people that are dependents of veterans.”

During the spring semesters, Veteran Services offers a suicide prevention workshop. The workshop is based on the idea that if a Veteran is considering suicide the most likely person he is going to talk to is another veteran rather than a person of authority who they cannot relate to. The workshops teach veterans how to identify a friend who needs help and the signs of suicide.

Signs for concerning suicidal behavior according to VA include the feeling there is no way out, anxiety, sleeplessness, mood swings, feeling like there is no reason to live, rage, anger and increased use of drugs and/or alcohol use.

The VA uses September to raise awareness about the Veterans Crisis Line. The crisis line is a free 24-hours a day confidential help line for veterans, service members and their families. This month it is putting on the Power of One Movement (#ThePowerof1Movement on Twitter) to raise awareness about suicide rates and prevention. The movement is teaching people that one small act can help save a veteran or service member from attempting suicide.

“We’ve been very blessed that suicide has been a very rare occurrence as far as active students,” Pugh said. “We have had issues in the past but thankfully we have had very few that have gone through with the act of committing suicide.” 

There are many students who are learning special ways to deal with suicide once they become officers in the Air Force. These students are prepared in different ways for a variety of situations.  During their first leadership lab, the entire cadet wing comes together to learn about several mandatory topics, including sexual assault, sexual harassment and suicide prevention.

“I really walk through suicide prevention and how we handle it in the Air Force, experiences I’ve been involved in and how the Air Force handles them,” said Lt. Col. James Mullinex, Commander Air Force ROTC Detachment 630.  

The Air Force ROTC and Adult and Veteran Services want student veterans, cadets and military service members to know they can reach out at any time. The military is based strongly off of a bond that everyone is always there for each other no matter what.

“One of the big things we stress is reaching out, it is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength,” Mullinex said. “It’s not wrong to ask for help; it doesn’t make you weak, it makes you strong.”

Lauren Phillips is the military and veterans reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].