In 2019, 188 Missouri veterans committed suicide. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says Missouri’s veteran suicide rate is significantly higher than the national average.
A state Senate committee is reviewing a bill that would require the Missouri Veterans Commission to recommend ways to prevent veteran suicides. State Representative Dave Griffith, R-Jefferson City, is sponsoring the bill that would also help to educate the public about them.
“The demographic, really the area they’re coming from is mostly rural. We have a lot that are in metropolitan areas but there’s no discriminator – they are white, black, brown, whatever color. The numbers are not going down. It’s a mental health issue that we’ve got to try and get a grip on. So many people in so many families, when you mention mental health, they don’t want to talk about it. They feel like it’s a stigma – that it’s something that they should be ashamed of. And that’s the farthest thing from the truth. We need to be able to talk about it,” Griffith told Missourinet.
The pain hits close to home. Griffith served in the U.S. Army 8th Special Forces Group as a Green Beret. He has seen suicide, including veteran suicide.
“Actually, one was a friend of mine and I had no idea of the demons that he was living with. It broke my heart,” he said. “I’ve dedicated myself to try and find ways that I can assist the veteran community.”
Griffith said his dad was a Methodist preacher and he was raised with a particular view on life.
“My mom and dad raised us boys that service or a fellow man is what God calls us to do every day. I feel like this is my calling, to be able to do this. And so, I’m going to be as good of an advocate that I can be for the veteran community.”
Griffith also wants to require the Missouri Veterans Commission to complete an annual report about veteran suicides and suicide prevention efforts.
The Missouri House of Representatives has already passed the bill. With less than three weeks left in this legislative session, a traffic jam of bills is awaiting Senate review. Anything could happen before the gavel drops on May 13.
To view House Bill 2455, click here.
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