MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota has the most deployed National Guard units in the country.
But a new study from the Pentagon highlights a growing concern for the military and citizen-soldiers families: Suicide is on the rise.
For the first time, National Guard members are more likely than their active-duty counterparts to kill themselves.
Alissa Harrington knows the pain associated with losing a loved one to suicide.
“My brother’s name is Justin Miller. He was a trumpet player,” Alissa said.
Justin was a Marine who was deployed to Iraq. When he returned, he went to Minneapolis VA Health Care System for help. After four days of treatment, he was released and died by suicide. His death sparked a federal review of the Minneapolis VA system.
“There is such elaborate, sometimes, of numbers to call and claims to file and paperwork to fill out that it can be daunting, especially when someone’s in crisis,” Alissa said.
Her push to make sure no other family experienced the pain they felt led to the adoption of Veterans Suicide Prevention Day, and a new way of thinking by the VA in helping veterans in crisis.
“The approach has to be from the whole community. We have to look at the issue of suicide in the military as from a holistic perspective,” Alissa said. “We recognize how much you are putting on the line, and how much we need to be there when you come back in whatever way we can, and for your families, too.”
Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Larry Herke says the community health model allows veterans to get help where ever they feel comfortable or where there is a connection, allowing veterans multiple places including the VA to get help.
“We’re there. We’re going to provide the people around you that are going to be able to determine when you may need some assistance,” Herke said.
Suicide prevention is a national priority for the V.A. Alissa hopes the event on Saturday opens the door for community to come in and become a part of the solution.