Le Lézard
Classified in: Health, Covid-19 virus
Subjects: NPT, VET, DEI

The Invisible War on the Homefront

CHARLOTTE, N.C., Jan. 20, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Although COVID seems to be the current war the world is fighting, a bigger enemy is on America's home front for service members and Veterans: suicide. From July to September of 2021, 163 service members died by suicide, nearly doubling the number of those who died by COVID since the inception of the pandemic.

"Isolation, inactivity, and traumatic events are some of the many risk factors for post-9/11 Veterans and service members," said Sarah Verardo, Chief Executive Officer of The Independence Fund. "Making mental health resources readily available needs to be a top priority."

When a service member returns from war, for many, the fight has only just begun. Mental health among Veterans and the military community continues to have a negative stigma. 20 Veterans a day die by suicide, totaling over 6,000 per year. Each death by suicide impacts over 130 other people, meaning nearly 800,000 people are impacted each year from Veteran Suicide.

The problem is especially acute for combat Veterans. While the overall Veteran suicide rate is 1.5 to 2.5 times greater than the non-Veteran suicide rate, for combat Veterans, especially younger combat Veterans, it is very severe ? for 18?24-year-old combat deployed Veterans, the suicide rate is 3 to 4 times higher than the overall Veteran suicide rate, and 7 to 8 times higher than the non-Veteran overall suicide rates.

The Independence Fund is working to change that through their Operation RESILIENCY (OpRES) program. "We have seen that through connectivity and reuniting our Veterans who have shared traumatic experiences together, they gain the peer-to-peer support, confidence, resources, and resiliency skills to reach out to get help when they need it," said Sam Johnson, Executive Vice President of The Independence Fund. "We do this by placing Veterans in a safe place to communicate their struggles, triggers, and transition."

Operation RESILIENCY reunites tactical combat military units who survived traumatic experiences together during their deployment and have been affected by Veteran suicide once home. Relying on the trust and brotherhood forged in combat, military units gather in formation to address their next, and most important mission on the home front: preventing Veteran suicide.

"Engagement is the key. In partnership with the VA, OpRES targets specific military units with the highest suicide risks. Our mission is to provide psycho-educational training retreats for at-risk Veterans and their families and then progressively transition them into other programs, such as adaptive sports, or VA or Department of Defense mental health treatment, for them to regain their independence and a new lease on life," said Verardo.

Since 2019, The Independence Fund has been proud to include active-duty service members and the unit's Iraqi and Afghan interpreter(s) in the reunions, as they served alongside U.S. service members in combat and now fight alongside our Veterans on the home front. OpRES attendees participate in a four-day retreat and leave with tools and resources to use when the load gets too heavy. The peer support model focuses on admitting that, "it's OK to not be OK."

"The issue is connection," said Johnson. "The Veterans Crisis Line, Coaching into Care, Make the Connection.net, and SAVE suicide prevention training are great resources. Operation RESILIENCY will take those resources directly to at-risk Veterans with laser-guided precision through retreats, training, and awareness under the umbrella of comradery with their fellow service members to ensure no connection is lost."

Units can be nominated for the OpRES program on The Independence Fund's website. Veterans who are in crisis or having thoughts of suicide, and those who know a Veteran in crisis, can call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 for confidential crisis intervention and support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Ashley Skinner
[email protected]


SOURCE The Independence Fund

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