ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — There are an estimated 22 military veterans who take their lives every day according to the Military Veteran Project. What do we need to know about mental health for those who serve? It’s a combination of awareness, community effort and removing the stigma.
“You know all of a sudden I’m locking my doors six, seven times, I’m sleeping with a shotgun next to my bed, you know it’s these little things, cause you just think of security,” said Cody Knapp is former specialist for the Army National Guard. Knapp served in Guantanamo Bay as a prison guard and tells me the area where he was stationed was looked at as a vacation spot among other military personnel.
Knapp suffers from low level posttraumatic stress disorder, “It was in terms of you know, I was constantly checking the gates in the cells. I was always worrying you know what are the chances one of my guy gets out? Or when you’re searching the guy, and you know you’re down below his waist level by his hands and he tries to slit your throat.”
Knapp also worked alongside army members who served in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. He tells me, for those who were not in combat they didn’t feel they had a right to struggle with their mental health, “In reality you know we had a lot of people that were missing their child’s first day of school, their recitals. You know we had people who just weren’t used to being away and after going into that and then going into an intense environment working inside the prison, day to days coming in and out, it will eventually wear on you but you won’t realize it at the time,” he said.
Neal Conlon is a marine veteran and founder & CEO of Press Forward. Conlon says one of the biggest challenges for military veterans: “We have so many skills and then we’re being asked to consolidate them into everyday life that it actually just becomes so frustrating for the average military veteran to put this wealth of wisdom and knowledge into something that it hurts,” said Conlon.
Katie Coric is a Suicide Prevention Coordinator for Veteran’s Affairs. She notes that one issue surrounding mental health is the stigma which betters over time as a community effort, “You know maybe if I go to mental health counseling I let a few people know and maybe that decreases the stigma if they need to go to mental health counseling. I think being willing to share our own experiences with mental health and kind of what helped us helps too,” said Coric.
You can call or text 988 if you or a loved one is expereincing suicidal thoughts or any emotional distress. A trained crisis counselor will respond.