PUEBLO — The 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reported more than 45,000 American adults died from suicide in 2017. Of those adults, around 6,000 were veterans. It's an issue that hits close to home, with the VA also stating that for every one suicide, around 135 other people are affected.
The launch of a new national program called "Facing Adversity" hopes to help get to the root of the problem. The program was launched at the Center for American Values in Pueblo, and is being led by Medal of Honor recipient Drew Dix. At the meeting, dozens of community members came together to engage in a conversation about suicide, and discuss why someone would take their own life, as well as potential solutions. "It's not just treating individuals, we've got to get in front of this problem," said Drew Dix, who is also the co-founder of the Center for American Values.
While Dix hopes this program will help more than just military members, he did say the original idea started because of the alarming number of veteran suicides. One of the attendees, Timothy Bartlett, said he served in the army for more than 12 years, and attempted suicide three times after he left. "When you're in the military, you're a number. When your time is up, they erase that number, you become a ghost, you don't exist anymore," said Bartlett, explaining why he felt like he had no purpose once he left the military.
It's a feeling Lori Palumbo said her older brother also felt. Palumbo said she lost her brother to suicide around eight years ago. "Grief through a suicide is so different, because there's so many unanswered questions... you want to understand why, you want to blame yourself, and say 'how did I miss it?'" said Palumbo, who also noted it's important to try and not blame yourself if a loved one does complete suicide.
Bartlett said finding a community like the one at the Center for American Values has greatly helped him. "There's something out there bigger than myself, and that's what I have to concentrate on," said Bartlett.
Those from the Center for American Values said they would compile the results of the meeting, and send them out to those in attendance.