HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Suicide is one of the main causes of death among veterans here in the Tennessee Valley. Veteran suicide has prompted a statewide initiative called Alabama's Challenge. The organizers are planning a town hall next Wednesday here in Huntsville.
President and CEO of Still Serving Veterans, Paulette Risher, says this issue isn't just a concern for veterans. "Suicide is not a veterans issue, it's a human issue it's a community issue as a public health issue and veterans are a high risk population"
Alabama’s Challenge is an initiative aimed to create an impactful, long-term outcome across the state as they continue fighting a stigma with mental illness. Raising awareness of suicide prevention can help the community understand the cause and circumstances that lead to mental health issues in general.
The Alabama Department of Veteran Affairs is a lead agency within Alabama’s Challenge and assists with connecting with other organizations to provide information and knowledge about suicide, provide support, and provide resources and options to deal with PTSD and crisis situations.
The Alabama Department of Veteran Affairs says 152 veterans in Alabama died from suicide in 2020. That amounted to nearly a fifth of all suicides in Alabama, much higher than the national average.
Risher is just one of the organizers of this statewide initiative to combat suicide and mental health problems for veterans and shares how these numbers affect us here in Huntsville. "There's a little bit of a misconception, the highest rates of suicide, the rate, are among young veterans the highest number of suicides are among older veterans, and we see it in here every day. In 2020, which is the last year we've got a good hard data, the highest number of veteran suicides in the state of Alabama is Madison County, and that ability to reach out and care and to show concern for fellow human beings is really critical to this."
The town hall will feature a panel of community, state, and federal representatives to talk about the issues and discuss their services and answer questions from the community.
"We're really excited about this, this is a series of town halls that are actually legislatively directed to engage with the citizens of the communities and ask them about what they need as veterans and this is very veteran focus, so what do you need is veterans, and not only how your community can support it but the broader community because community doesn't stop at the the borders of the city it is our whole state," added Risher.