Veterans unite to raise awareness about suicide

Published: Apr. 26, 2019 at 6:29 PM EDT
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The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports 20 veterans take their life each day. The Southwest Virginia Student Veterans Alliance is working to help those who've served our country to find the help they need.

"When I first got out it was heavy drinking," said Mark Shelton, Army Veteran, and Radford University Student.

Shelton shares how he struggled with depression.

"Four days after my birthday I was sitting on the edge of a bridge ready to go," said Shelton, "and so the cops took me to the VA and I sobered up and really started thinking about everything."

Shelton made it out of that dark space, enrolled into school and has a life passion to save other veterans battling with suicide Shelton and the Southwest Virginia Student Veterans Alliance is hosting the 4th Annual Veteran Suicide Awareness March, walking 14 miles starting from the mill mountain star.

"The goal is to shed light on mental health issues and recognize warning signs," said Shelton.

"It definitely affects a lot of veterans. If someone is withdrawing, change in behavior, increase alcohol or drug use, things like that," said Alicia Dudley, Suicide Prevention Coordinator Salem VA.

Dudley shared veteran crisis hotline 1-800- 273- 8255 that immediately connects people with resources. There are also phone apps that can manage symptoms. Advocates say suicide prevention starts with everyone coming together.

"We just need people to talk to, if you have a veteran family member or friend talk to them, make sure they are doing ok," said Shelton, "Any day they could be going through something and nobody would know"

"There is still that stigma but hopefully with a lot of coverage and people talking about it, more people will be willing to get help," said Dudley.

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