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OPINION

More attention, funding needed to address vet suicide

By RUDY D. PLACENCIA | Special to Stars and Stripes | Published: October 11, 2019

I was honored to have deployed on several tours for my country in Iraq and the Middle East. However, upon my return, there have been some issues that have become major concerns for myself as well as many of my fellow veterans that directly impact the veteran community.

One that needs to be addressed is high suicide rates and mental health problems among veterans. We often discuss this unfortunate reality, but do we know what is driving the increase in veteran suicide rates? How can we be better equipped to deal with this issue?

Many of these suicides are done with a firearm, leading many veterans to ask why our government has not properly addressed this issue. It would be a futile exercise to simply guess the reasons as to why veteran suicide by firearms have increased. However, more can and must be done to unpack this issue.

Since we do not have enough data and information as to how we should properly confront this problem, the only viable recourse is to petition our representatives in Washington to look into the matter and provide funding for research and data in order to determine the source.

When many of us veterans were on active duty, we approached matters both logically and strategically; our policymakers should take the same approach as it relates to this issue.

This is a dilemma that can be resolved with the proper funding for long-term, data-driven research. Our representatives in Congress should address this matter instead of “punting” the issue and hoping that it resolves itself.

Better understanding the risk of suicide by firearms, particularly as it relates to the veteran community, should certainly be worthy of specific answers. The last thing we need is to continue to ignore this issue and simply watch it manifest itself before our eyes.

Veterans are proud to have served our country. I believe, as many other veterans believe, now is the time for our elected representatives in Washington to provide the necessary funding that is required to produce research that will help lead us to the correct answers for ending gun violence and veterans suicide.

Resources are being expended on other efforts, why isn’t this issue worthy of the same treatment? Hopefully, our leaders in Washington will hear us and make the right call.

Rudy D. Placencia is a former Army officer and combat veteran.

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