(The Center Square) – Multiple groups are calling on Congress to pass a resolution commemorating a National Warrior Call Day to raise awareness and prevention of suicide among active-duty service members and veterans.
They’re doing so as a new national veterans crisis line launched and a new report finds an alarming number of active-duty military are committing suicide.
Multiple groups in a letter urged Congress to cosponsor and pass a resolution to declare the Sunday after Veterans Day “National Warrior Call Day,” which this year is Nov. 13.
The signers include a former CBO director, leaders of state and national think tanks and associations, among others.
“National Warrior Call Day implores all Americans – but especially those in the military community – to connect with someone who has worn or is currently wearing the uniform and let them know they care,” they write. “The campaign’s motto is ‘make a call, take a call.’ This is informed specifically by work by Veteran Service Organizations in visiting major military facilities and supporting our veterans over many years – particularly in the post-9/11 era.”
The call to action was organized by Warrior Call, a project of the Troops First Foundation, and a network of former active-duty service members, veterans and their friends and families. Its chair, Frank Larkin, a former Navy SEAL and the 40th U.S. Senate Sergeant at Arms, lost his Navy SEAL son to suicide.
Larkin said to those struggling, “Taking your own life may end your pain and suffering but suicide will only transfer your pain and suffering to your loved ones, friends and teammates – the people you most care about and who care about you.
“You may feel that no one else understands your pain, the light is no longer visible in your dark place, and hope is not real,” but nothing is further from the truth, he said.
According to the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, researchers have identified social isolation as “arguably the strongest and most reliable predictor of suicidal ideation, [suicide] attempts and lethal suicidal behavior.”
Making a call to a veteran or service member could save a life, Larkin said.
The coalition’s request for congressional recognition comes as the new National Suicide Prevention Lifeline launched July 16, enabling those in a crisis to dial 988 (and press 1).
It also came after a new analysis was published by Voice of San Diego, which found that young active-duty service members are committing suicide at alarming rates.
Men actively serving between the ages of 17 and 25 are nearly twice as likely to die by suicide than their civilian peers; women actively serving between the ages of 17 and 30 are more than twice as likely to die by suicide as their civilian peers, the analysis found.
Larkin is also encouraging those struggling to connect with others through Vets4Warriors.com and 1-855-838-8255.
Over 1.7 million veterans receive a range of mental health services through the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, with an average 17 veterans committing suicide a day in 2019, the VA states.
Also in 2019, the suicide rate among veterans was 52.3% higher than non-veterans, according to a 2021 National Veteran Suicide Prevention annual report.
In 2018, 6,435 veterans committed suicide, according to a RAND Corporation report. It also found that from 2009-2021, suicide rates were consistently higher among veterans than nonveterans.
Nearly two-thirds of veterans who commit suicide have had no contact with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Despite this, the department’s budget has increased significantly, including a 2023 budget request of $497 million for suicide prevention, which includes grant funding for community-based suicide prevention efforts, The Center Square has previously reported.
In addition to calling 988, those in need of help can also call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1, text 838255 or chat at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.