The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says Missouri’s veteran suicide rate is significantly higher than the national average. In 2019, 188 Missouri veterans died by suicide.

State Rep. Dave Griffith, R-Jefferson City, Chairman of the House Veterans Committee, has presented a report to another House committee expressing concern about the mental health of veterans in Missouri and by how many have taken their life.

“I can tell you that the testimony that we had in my committee was just so compelling,” explained Griffith. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the place many times because of the stories that some of these people are telling. We had a wife and a daughter that came from Springfield that talked to us about their dad that committed suicide. He was a colonel in the National Guard. He was a police officer in Springfield. They knew that he had issues, but they didn’t really want to bring it forward because he was afraid about losing his job.”

Griffith’s Interim Committee on Veteran’s Mental Health and Suicide learned that one contributing factor that can lead to veteran suicide was the stigma associated with mental health and seeking treatment. During testimony, he pointed to the importance of knowing the state’s 988 Crisis Lifeline and recommends that the Missouri Legislature devotes a minimum of $27 million to help fund it.

“I can tell you that I’ve been dealing with this past week with a veteran trying to commit suicide a week ago today,” testified Griffith. “Getting information to him and to those others that are out there about 988, because we know about it, because we talk about it on the floor, but the general public, most of them do not know. Those that need to know are those that are in crisis, those that are facing challenges in their lives that they feel like that the only way out is for them to go out of this world.”

U.S. Census data says Missouri has more than 400,000 military veterans.

Click here to read the report.