MUSKEGON, MICH. - "We know we have problem and it's not acceptable. It's a completely gut wrenching and painful subject to talk about but that doesn't mean we are not going to talk about it, because we have to do something to change that," said Joellen Rhyndress, LMSW with HealthWest.
She's talking about veteran suicide in Muskegon County, where the rate of veterans taking their own lives is much higher than the national average.
Seven and a half percent of Muskegon County's population are military veterans, but last year, a third of the suicides in that county, 31 percent, were vets. Organizers of Thursday's event say that rate is simply unacceptable.
That's why HealthWest and the Muskegon County Department of Veterans Affairs are partnering to show the documentary "Project 22" on Thursday, Oct. 27.
On average, 22 veterans take their lives in the US every day.
The film was first shown on the LST 393 in Muskegon during Rebel Road this summer. It documents the struggles of veterans returning from service, some dealing with isolation, loss of identity, survivor guilt and hopelessness -- but it also shows how they found hope.
After the film, there will be discussion about the help available for vets and what you should do if you think someone is struggling. Joellen says first step is acknowledging it. "If you feel like somebody is suffering, it is ok to ask them if they are thinking about killing them self and in that way: 'I see you are really suffering, it sounds like you are having a really hard time. I know sometimes people think about killing themselves is that something that you have considered?' and saying that in a genuine, non-judgmental way.
That can provide people with so much relief and open the door to conversations. And if you didn't ask that question, you would never know. And I know that that prevents suicide."
There is also a hotline to call for help, for veterans it's 800-273-8255, then press 1.
"Project 22" will be shown three times Thursday -- at noon, 3 and 6 p.m. at the USS Silversides Submarine Museum.
There is no cost to attend but you are asked to bring toiletries for the Muskegon County Veterans Affairs Center. Organizers say lack of personal hygiene can be a barrier for someone to ask for help and removing every barrier is so important.
Click here for more information about the event.
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