Alabama task force on veterans suicide holds ‘productive and encouraging’ inaugural meeting
Wednesday saw the first meeting of the Alabama Task Force on Veterans Suicide. The organizational meeting saw testimony from subject matter experts and was complimented as impactful by its chairperson.
The task force originates from a resolution sponsored by State Rep. Neil Rafferty (D-Birmingham). The goal of the task force is to investigate what is causing the elevated rate of suicide among Alabama’s veterans and figure out how to prevent more vets from taking their own lives.
According to the Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs, “In 2016, the veteran suicide rate in Alabama was 60 percent higher than the rate for civilians and nine percent higher than other southern states.”
The members of the task force were appointed by the governor, speaker of the Alabama House, minority leader of the Alabama House, president of the Senate, Alabama Senate minority leader, commissioner of the Department of Mental Health, state health officer and commissioner of the Department of Human Resources.
The task force has two years before it must present a report on its findings to the state legislature.
“This first workshop was productive and encouraging.” Paulette Risher, task force chair said. “Participants gained a better understanding of each member’s background and why they are willing to serve in this important work.”
Two experts on veterans’ mental health, Dr. Joe Currier and Dr. Karl Hammer, presented at the meeting to establish a gound level vocabulary and level of knowledge among the participants.
Currier, according to the ADVA, “discussed suicide fundamentals such as terms used for those contemplating suicide. He also highlighted the risk factors and red flags for suicide.”
Hammer “discussed Operation Deep Dive, a four-year research study that examines the potential causes involved in suicides among military veterans.”
“My sensing is that every person in attendance, many veterans themselves, are fully committed to helping Alabama demonstrate our genuine concern and commitment to our citizens who have worn, or are wearing the cloth of the nation,” Risher stated. “It is such an honor to help guide this effort. This is clearly work of the head and the heart.”
Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @HenryThornton95.