CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WVEC) -- Taking steps, to help reduce the incidence of veterans' suicides.
Today, the Hampton V.A. launched a new pilot program, where, military peers are trained to spot signs of trouble for fellow vets in crisis.
Veterans have a suicide rate 50 percent higher than those who did not serve in the military. Nearly one in every five suicides nationally is a veteran
That's where the new "V.A. Peer Support" program comes in.
It's part of a national initiative named in honor of the late Marine Corps Corporal Clay Hunt, who took his own life at age 28, after deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"And the point of this is to hopefully reach them and create that connection, not as a clinician or somebody diagnosing them, but to really meet them on a level that is really personal and offer them hope and the support they need," said Amber Herbert -Jones, a Navy spouse who was one of ten, peer recovery specialists to graduate Friday.
"I really love to help people and just becoming a peer resource specialist will help me do that: help me to help my peers overcome anything they're going through," said Army Staff Sergeant LaDrena Martin
The idea here is to make contact with military members before they ever get out of the military.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, in 2014--the most recent year for which state-by-state data is available---in Virginia, 227 military veterans committed suicide. 214 were men, 13 were women.
The statistics have improved a little. But the sad fact is, nationally, 20 military veterans still commit suicide every day. That's down from 22 a few years ago, but even one is too many.
"The need is still great," said Hampton V.A. clinical psychologist Dr.David Shaw. "And the saddest part of that number is, only six are engaged in V.A. services, so there are a lot more people we need to make contact with and help. That's why this program, targeting transitioning service members is so important to us."
The V.A. has a toll free confidential Veteran Crisis hotline. It's 1-800-273-8255, press 1.
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