In 2017, there were 45,390 American adults died from suicide, including 6,139 U.S. Veterans, according to a report released just last week as the Clarksville Suicide Prevention Alliance held its inaugural #BeThere Clarksville summit at the Wilma Rudolph Event Center on Thursday, Oct. 3.
The 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, from the office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, noted that Veteran Affairs is offering a renewed and determined call to unrelentingly address suicide in the nation’s Veteran population and society, as suicide has no single cause and the tragedy of suicide affects all Americans.
Isolation has been shown to be a risk factor for suicide, according to the report.
Suicide rates have been found to be highest among those who were divorced, widowed or never married and lowest among those who married. The rates were elevated among individuals residing in rural areas.
Clarksville-Military Liaison Bill Harpel, chairman of the alliance, said in March of 2018, the city of Clarksville signed up with the U.S. Conference of Mayors to participate in a nationwide organizational challenge to work towards having zero suicides.
Clarksville was the only city in the state of Tennessee to sign up for the effort.
Harpel said that Montgomery County has acted as an equal partner in the formation of the Clarksville Suicide Prevention Alliance and had both Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts and Montgomery County Mayor Jim Durrett in attendance for Thursday’s event.
Nearly 150 people attended the first #BeThere Clarksville summit of the alliance, which featured more than a dozen members passionate about building strategies to prevent suicide in the Clarksville-Montgomery County area.
Event organizer and emcee Richard Stevens introduced six speakers, including Col. Patrick T. Birchfield, commander of Blanchfield Army Community Hospital at Fort Campbell, who said the people in the alliance could drastically change the number of suicides locally.
“(Having) Zero suicides is a realistic goal,” Birchfield said. “No one is immune from hurt or pain or even experiencing bad things…it takes a truly resilient person to recognize and say, ‘I need some help.’”
The findings of the 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report indicated there were more than 900 suicides in 2017 among never federally-activated, former National Guard and Reserve members, which averages to about 2.5 suicide deaths per day.
Keynote speaker Jodie Robison, Centerstone’s executive director for Military Services, said Centerstone stands ready to assist all veterans needing help, regardless of whether they deployed or not.
“National Guard troops often will not seek out services,” Robison said. “Because if they didn’t deploy, they will sometimes feel they’re not considered a veteran. We try to make a big effort to let them know we serve everyone.”
In a vendor spotlight, Jimmy Wiesner, with Team Red, White & Blue, spoke from his seat regarding his group’s methods of helping veterans physically, by assisting them to run and work out.
“It helps them to connect to the community,” Wiesner said. “We help them get back a brotherhood, by enriching their lives with physical activities, whether it’s walking, running or swimming, we work with them what they need.”
Centerstone offers a 24-hour crisis hotline at 800-681-7444.