VA highlights work to lower military suicide rates

WASHINGTON – While America pauses to thank our service members this Veterans Day some are remembering those who didn’t get the chance to celebrate the holiday this year.

“My brothers and I had no idea she was going through as much as she was going through,” Ashlynne Haycock with Tragedy Assistance Program For Survivors or TAPS shared.

Ashlynne Haycocks’ mom died by suicide. She was an Air Force Veteran and now one of the all-too-many servicemembers who take their own lives.

“She was in her 40s. I was the oldest child and I was only 19 but you know losing her that way was really eye-opening to just the challenges we and our military and our veterans face,” Haycock added.

325 active-duty members died by suicide in 2018, according to the Department of Defense.

That’s the highest number since the Defense Department started keeping track after 9/11.

When we asked Veteran Affairs Secretary about this he said it’s part of the country’s larger problem with suicide and that the problem, unfortunately, isn’t new.

“The first statistics compiled by the United States Army on army suicides took place in the 1890s. This President is the first one to call the country together to address this,” VA Sec. Robert Wilkie told Washington Correspondent Kellie Meyer.

Wilkie said the VA already offers same-day mental health services across the country with almost 1 million people screened last year.

But with suicide rates higher among military personnel than civilians, we pressed Wilkie on what else his agency can do.

“We’re going to have a national road map produced by March of next year which will bring together all elements of government and then open the aperture on how we can open the states and localities and charities help us find those veterans who are outside of the system.”

Haycock now works with a program helping other families coping with loss.

She believes ‘openness’ is the key to helping save more veterans' lives.

“If other people had seen that and she had been more open about her own challenges. Her loss may have been prevented.”

The Tragedy Assistance Program For Survivors or TAPS 24-7 National Helpline is 800-959-TAPS.