LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) -The Department of Defense Annual Suicide Report shows a disturbing rise in cases among both active and reserve service members.
One veteran and advocate says that the report reflects the larger crisis of mental health among those who have served.
“When you’re on active duty, I mean it’s simple as going to your section sergeant or your XO or CO, if you have a good one, and getting the care you need. But that care is really not there or easily accessible to the veteran when they leave the military,” said Veteran Joshua Parish.
Parish served in the armed forces until 2008, and now leads the non-profit Vet Life that connects veterans to benefits and other vet-focused groups. He says a veteran’s mental health struggles can go unchecked once they leave the military
“If we’re able to connect these veterans to their benefits, I think you’re going to see a reduction in the suicide rate. Because I feel like a lot of veterans are committing suicide because they feel like they lost their sense of purpose. ,” said Parish.
The Department of Defense report shows that suicides among active-duty troops have been increasing from a rate of nearly 2 out of 100,000 members in 2018, to a rate of nearly 29 out of 100,000 in 2020.
Meanwhile, suicides among reserve and national guard troops are rising as well after falling in 2019.
Rates among these soldiers are nearly 22 and 28 suicides out of 100,000 in 2020 respectively.
The Michigan Department of Military and Veteran Affairs released this statement saying that the Michigan National Guard Developed a team composed of chaplains, prevention programs, behavioral health, and family support services during the pandemic to help troops.
Officials say that team is working to “Enhance a culture where service members feel comfortable seeking support during challenging times”
Parish says that more work needs to be done to support Michigan’s troops and veterans.
“We just need to give the veteran the best chance available at least to get screened for those benefits instead of just getting confused in the process,” said Parish.