COLORADO SPRINGS — September is Suicide Prevention Month, and veteran suicides fell to their lowest level in 12 years in 2019, according to data released by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA says in 2018, veterans made up 14 percent of the suicides in America, and even though this number is shrinking, thanks to public attention and prevention efforts, one mother says there's still work to be done
Chanta Vasquez remembers her son fondly. Jionni Vasquez was a 21-year-old Army Specialist who served in the medical field.
"If you ask anyone they will always tell you about that smile that he had, and we knew since he was like four he was going to be in the army," Vasquez said.
Vasquez says she lost her son by suicide in May of 2019. She says there is still a "macho man mentality" in the armed forces, where our soldiers think they have to be strong for everyone, and they end up not taking care of themselves.
"For my son we just didn't know. We just didn't know how his mental health was affecting him," she said.
The veterans crisis line says veterans who are in crisis, may not show symptoms of mental illness, but when they do, those behaviors could indicate a risk of self-harm. These include appearing sad or depressed most of the time, symptoms of PTSD, anger, sadness, mood swings, appetite changes, and trouble sleeping.
Now Vasquez wants to prevent other families from experiencing the same pain.
"Since my son died the biggest thing I wanted to do was live a life that honors his sacrifice, and that includes reaching out to those in any way you can," she said.
Vasquez is also the president of the Pikes Peak American Gold Star Mothers, an organization that gives support and resources to the mothers of those who served in the armed forces, and who died while in combat. The group held a walk for suicide prevention on Saturday.
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