PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As part of Suicide Prevention Month, a series of events is being held in Rhode Island to show people how to #BeThere for local veterans.
According to the veterans’ administration, 22 veterans commit suicide every day.
On Wednesday, the center held a suicide walk and informational day. Newport resident Beverly Franklin was front and center, telling the story of her son, who was a veteran and teacher.
Sgt. Michael T. Franklin committed suicide nine years ago and she says it was due to post-traumatic stress disorder.
“He did two tours, came back with PTSD, when I tried to get him help, no one would listen,” Franklin said.
Franklin said she keeps coming to suicide prevention events because her son is not the only one. Veterans face unique challenges when they come home that affect their mental health. The medical center says those include PTSD, feelings of isolation, and difficulty transitioning.
“It’s difficult. You’re very structured over there, have to do things a certain way, sometimes the transition is very difficult,” veteran and peer support counselor Melanie Costa explained.
Missy Ames, chairwoman of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Rhode Island chapter, says suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in our state and the second leading cause of death for youth.
In light of this week and month, the Providence VA Medical Center is highlighting the #BeThere campaign, encouraging community leaders, veteran families and friends to help prevent suicidal thoughts by showing support.
“I think just getting the word out that there are things available like the VA, crisis line, and other places that are here to help instead of hiding it,” Costa added. “Actually saying the word suicide and letting them know it’s OK and there is hope.”
The center says more than 6,000 veterans die by suicide every year. They say one of the best things you can do as someone who loves a veteran is to keep communicating with them and show you care.
“The VA is very committed to suicide prevention, so we try to have different events to make sure that people know what the VA is doing and what resources there are,” the center’s Jeannie Smith said.
It’s also crucial to learn the warning signs of suicidal thoughts, such as feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, rage, alcohol or drug abuse, and isolation.
“I will not stop until the numbers come down to zero,” Franklin added. “I see in too many eyes what I saw in my son’s eyes: that hurt, that darkness, that they saw too much, did too much. I couldn’t help my son but I can help other people.”
If you are in need of help, contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and press 1. Click here to learn more.
Upcoming events being hosted by the veterans’ association:
- Vet Center Veteran Art Exhibit, open display: Sept. 4 – 29; Reception with Q&A: Sept. 10, 5 -9 p.m. at Warwick Public Library, 600 Sandy Ln, Warwick, R.I. Come celebrate the accomplishments of Vets and discuss the therapeutic aspects of art. Call 401-739-0167 for more information.
- Annual Veteran Suicide Prevention Awareness Walk, Sept. 11. The walk will start at noon. Join Providence VAMC employees, volunteers and Veterans to walk from the patio area behind the main hospital at 830 Chalkstone Avenue Park. Refreshments, water bottles and suicide-prevention-awareness items. Please #BeThere for support!