During Suicide Prevention Month, veterans urged to take first steps toward help

Moving Veterans Forward in Sarpy County is making an effort to prevent veteran suicide.
Published: Sep. 8, 2023 at 6:52 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -September is National Suicide Prevention Month.

Many of those who take their own lives are veterans.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the number of daily veteran suicides was 17 in 2020.

27-year Army vet Ron Hernandez started his own nonprofit, Moving Veterans Forward, which helps move homeless vets into homes and provides them furnishings.

He’s seen plenty of the mental health issues these warriors face, and how tough it is for many of them to seek help.

“Sometimes, you just got to swallow your pride,” Hernandez said.

He feels the opportunities for Sarpy County’s vets are there.

“The biggest issue is the actual veteran taking that first step, and that’s a pride and dignity thing that we have in the military,” he said.

Veterans Affairs recently launched a public service announcement campaign called “Don’t Wait, Reach Out,” which encourages vets who are struggling to visit its comprehensive website.

Just as important, Hernandez feels, is a buddy system where their fellow veterans or others are checking in on them.

“A 15-second text message could make the difference between someone living and dying,” he said.

Newly appointed Sarpy County Veterans Service Office director Dana Morris agreed.

“You need to be able to relate and express those feelings or what’s going on within your particular situation to someone that has a sympathetic ear,” Morris said.

His office doesn’t provide mental health services. However, in the process of helping veterans apply for healthcare, housing, and disability benefits, it can refer them to the VA for mental health assistance.

“We work within that environment on a daily basis, so it’s something that we’re familiar with, as well as understand the scope of a lot of the situations that are going on,” Morris said.

Hernandez said the important thing for vets to remember is that they still have a purpose and that it’s okay to try to get a leg up on the challenges they face.

The VA also has a 24-hour veterans crisis line.