Saving a life may be as simple as making a phone call.
In recognition of the high rate of veteran suicides each day in America, a movement is sweeping across social media. Buddy Check 22, as it is called, asks people to set aside the 22nd of each month and take a few minutes on that day to check in with a veteran. Many Whidbey Islanders have already joined the group on Facebook or shared with friends and family.
“I’m not aware of it, but it’s a great idea,” said Myron Brundage, Commander of Oak Harbor Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7392. “Of course, we do a lot of that already.”
With one of the highest veteran populations in the state, Island County is home to nearly 13,000 veterans. It is estimated 8,000 veterans a year commit suicide, According to a recent study done by the RAND Corporation. That averages out to about 22 deaths a day. The same statistic was also mentioned in a 2012 Veterans Administration report that surveyed suicide in 21 states, then extrapolated that rate to the entire country, according to the office of Rep. Rick Larsen, Washington District 2.
“Despite evidence that recent VA efforts are helping to prevent veteran suicides, the tragedy is that veterans take their own lives every day, which should serve as a major red flag for the need for more comprehensive treatment,” said Larsen via email. “A phone call from a friend very well may give a veteran the lift she or he needs to ask for help. And a movement like Buddy Check 22 can help draw important attention to the fact that our country needs to do much more to prevent veterans from ending their lives.”
However the number averages out, Brudage said it’s still way too high.
“Every article you read gives a different number,” he said. “The bottom line is, this is something that needs to be worked on.”
Larsen agrees, saying understanding which veterans are at the greatest risk is vital to finding the right solutions.
“Suicide among veterans is heartbreaking,” he said. “Women and men who have served our country and kept us safe need our full support when they return home – from stable housing and jobs, to treatment for addiction and post-traumatic stress. I am a staunch advocate of programs that provide veterans with these services.”
The Facebook event for Buddy Check 22 was started in August by Illinois Marine Corps veteran Zach Ziegel.
“The best part… You don’t have to go ANYWHERE,” reads Ziegel’s Facebook invitation. “Invite your friends, have them invite theirs, and be a part of something that may just save a life. It’s two minutes out of your day, and every veteran deserves to know that we still care about them.”
If you know of a veteran who may need assistance, please contact the Veteran’s Administration Crisis Hotline at 800-273-8255. Confidential support is available 24 hours a day.