At Veteran Energy, it’s our mission to help support our Texas veterans, military members and their families, and we’ve partnered with some awesome organizations to help make that possible.
Recently, we gave back $10,000 to help support Tour de Tejas, a new effort our Affinity Partner Combined Arms is heading up in partnership with the CDC and the University of Texas at Austin. The campaign was designed to help our military heroes connect with services that can make a difference in their lives. So as we close out the month of September, which is National Suicide Prevention Month, we thought we’d share a little more about how the campaign works, as some of those resources deal with mental wellbeing. Here’s more from Combined Arms:
“The Tour de Tejas campaign is intended to bring community awareness to the resources available to transitioning service members, veterans and their families,” said Alexa P., the group’s regional manager for the Dallas-Fort Worth area. “The campaign is meant to complement the work of the Texas Veterans Network in Austin, El Paso, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and rural Texas.”
The tour, which kicks off in October, will help spread the word on these resources through a series of town hall meetings throughout the state, she said. These services include help with employment, education, mental health/wellness and volunteer opportunities. The town halls, which will bring together various service providers, government groups and members of the veteran and military community, will first take place in the Dallas/Fort Worth region, she said—other areas will follow as needs arise.
And although the campaign covers a slew of different resource opportunities, awareness and prevention of veteran and service member suicide is an important aspect of Tour de Tejas. Nationally, suicide rates among veterans and the military community continues to be high. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports that rates among active military members are highest in this group, increasing from 18.5 to 24.8 suicides per 100,000 service members from 2013 to 2018. The VA also reports that veterans are about twice as likely to die by suicide, as compared to the general U.S. population. Veterans make up over 14% of suicides but only 8% of the population.
Katie M., research coordinator with Combined Arms, said there’s lots of data on the issue, nationally, but Combined Arms is working hard to get a more accurate picture of what’s going on in Texas.
“It’s important to look at what’s happening in your local community and adapt accordingly to be effective,” she said.
That’s why Combined Arms has been collecting data from local medical examiners. In Harris County, for example, she said, “We’ve learned that a total of 201 veterans passed away in 2019. At face value, it looks like only 20% of those deaths were by suicide. But we have to look a bit closer and consider non-natural deaths, too. While the majority of those deaths were related to natural causes, nearly half were related to suicide, self-harm or accidental deaths, such as drug overdoses and high-speed motor vehicle accidents,” she explained.
“Understanding local data can help inform specific prevention strategies for both the individuals and families we serve and our partner organizations,” she said. “Given that the majority of non-natural deaths in Harris County are gun- and drug-related, we can recommend a host of strategies. For example, we can promote gun locks, educate on safe gun storage and temporary gun relocation when a loved one is showing signs of suicidal thoughts. We can also distribute prescription drug deactivation kits, as well partner with local law enforcement to host prescription drug take back events.”
Veterans and/or service members in crisis are strongly encouraged to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or send a text message to 838255.
Combined Arms has over 60 mental health resources available to veterans, service members and/or their families. Those interested can create a profile on their website and complete an assessment. The Combined Arms portal system will guide you to the partner organization that will best fulfill your needs. Additionally, the Combined Arms Intake Team is available for personalized support. They can be reached at (888) 737-3112.