On October 31, 2019, Robert Wilkie, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, wrote an opinion piece outlining the need for Congress to pass the bipartisan bill, The Improve Well-Being for Veterans Act. This Act recognizes the valuable role that community organizations play in reaching out to Veterans and providing needed services. Through direct grants, community organizations would tailor services and resources to assist Veterans.
North Carolina has done an excellent job in forming community partnerships. Established in 2006, the North Carolina Governor’s Working Group consists of a network of federal, state, and local agencies and organizations focused on health and wellness, job creation, workforce enrichment, legal and financial services, and benefits for Veterans. Over the years, this coalition has evolved into a referral and collaboration network that gets Veterans and their families the services and supports that they need. Recently, a key initiative has focused on suicide prevention as estimates show that 5 Veterans take their lives weekly in the State.
In 2017, the last year in which data are available from the VA, 212 Veterans (200 men and 12 women) died by suicide, mostly from a firearm (156 or 73.6%), in NC. Veteran suicides represented 14.4% (212 of 1477) of all suicides in the State that year. The rate of Veteran suicides in NC does not vary significantly compared with the Veteran suicides for the rest of the country but is significantly higher for Veterans than the general population. The suicide rate is 1.3 times higher among male Veterans than the general population of men and 2.2 times higher among female Veterans than the general population of women.
North Carolina data show an increase in Veteran suicide from 2016 to 2017.
Veteran Suicides in North Carolina
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As Veterans Day approaches, let us remember that there are resources to help Veterans at https://helpncvets.org/. This website includes the Words to Live By video series and lists contacts for helplines, health care, benefits, housing, education, and employment.
A copy of the Resource Guide issued by the NC Department of Military and Veterans Affairs is available for download. This guide provides contact information to obtain Veteran services from the State and county and Veteran service organizations; benefits and medical services from VA facilities; referral resources from NCServes; employment services from the US Department of Labor, NC Department of Commerce, and professional associations; entrepreneurship resources; health, behavioral health, and social services through the NC Department of Health and Human Services; educational services; transitional services from military branches; and personal services including housing opportunities, debt management, and legal services.