PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - United States veterans are committing suicide at alarming rates that are well above the national average, and the problem is especially evident in Oregon.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the suicide rate for veterans in Oregon in 2015, the most recent year data is available, was 37.2 percent, which was more than double the national average among non-veterans.
That year alone, 118 Oregon veterans committed suicide.
“It really kind of haunts you,” Julie Terry said, whose brother, Will Naugle, committed suicide in 2017. “There’s a lot of ‘what could I have done?’ or ‘Is there something that could have changed it?’”
The VA offers walk-in mental health services at its Portland medical center for all veterans, and has a 24-hour veterans crisis line.
Suicide prevention coordinators follow up with any veteran who calls the crisis line.
“We can help them get into care, help problem solve any concerns about their care,” Monireh Moghadam said, a suicide prevention coordinator with the VA.
Grace Clark, an Air Force veteran who lives in St. Helens, found help through the VA’s program.
Clark said she suffers from severe depression stemming from a sexual assault early in her career, and has attempted suicide several times.
“When I’m thinking about it. When it’s in my heart, soul, mind, it just permeates everything that I am,” said Clark.
Clark eventually joined a support group through the VA called “Wise Warriors,” and, though she still struggles with depression, said she’s learned ways to manage it.
Her family and friends help keep her centered.
“I can’t imagine when I’m sitting with my grandson that I could have missed this. That I could have missed the stories of a four-year-old,” Clark said.
Any veteran in crisis can call the Veterans Crisis Line 24-hours-a-day and seven days per week at 1-800-273-8255.
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