More than 20 veterans die every day by suicide, a rate more than one and half times that of the persons who have not served in the military, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Making suicide prevention for veterans a top priority, St. Petersburg College and Veterans Counseling Veterans came together to hold the inaugural Faith-Based Organizations, Mental Health and Veterans and Families Suicide Prevention Forum at St. Petersburg College‘s EpiCenter on May 18.
The forum, which sought to improve assistance to families in coping with a veteran’s suicide, brought together more than 100 people and 23 non-profit organizations, and was attended by Congressman Charlie Crist and his staff, Pinellas County Commissioner Dave Eggers, Al Carter, Chief of Staff for the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs, and representatives from federal, state and county agencies. The panel was moderated by Dr. Carlos Garcia, Roderick Cunningham, and chaplain Linda Pugsley.
Retired Major Ellsworth “Tony” Williams, CEO/President of Veterans Counseling Veterans, led the forum’s efforts to discover how services could be improved for at-risk veterans. Williams, who served in the U.S. Army for 24 years, said that veteran suicide is a national problem that has a local solution. He noted that the Veterans Administration recognizes faith as a protective factor when assessing suicide risk and sees faith-based organizations as critical partners in preventing veteran suicides. Learn more about this event on Williams’s LinkedIn, and about Veterans Counseling Veterans on their website.
The forum was made possible thanks to the efforts of Dr. Carol Rasor-Cordero, college faculty member and a member of the Advisory Board for the VCV, and faculty member Rosanne Beck. Keep up with the latest in services and news for veterans at St. Petersburg College.