With the traditional season of giving punctuated by Thanksgiving and Christmas behind us, we often get reminded of the plight of struggling groups who do not stop needing our attention and help. One group that certainly needs our help is military veterans. This population deals with various issues, including homelessness and mental health issues.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs declares on its website that “No Veteran Should Be Without a Place to Call Home” because it is committed to ending homelessness among veterans. Although homelessness among veterans declined by 5.4 percent between 2017 and 2018, 23,300 veterans were unsheltered or living on the street during the VA’s annual “point in time” count on a night in January 2018. You can contact your community’s VA homeless coordinator to get help or learn how you can help homeless veterans.
The VA also cares about helping veterans who are struggling with mental illness, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress. It provides information and resources on its website. Similarly, suicide is a top mental health concern among veterans. It’s hard to read the VA’s National Suicide Data Report spanning 2005 to 2016. For example, more than 6,000 veterans died by suicide each year from 2008 to 2016. The veteran suicide rate increased nearly 26 percent from 2005 to 2016, higher than for non-veteran adults. Fitting with its perspective that suicide is preventable, the VA offers resources for veterans and their friends and family, including a crisis line staffed 24 hours a day, information on warning signs, and steps for talking with veterans at risk for suicide.
I’m glad that the VA has a specialized focus on two topics crucial to the survival of veterans. We need to help those who have given so much of themselves to help us.