ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) – The Atlanta VA held its 7th annual Mental Health Summit on Tuesday to inform veterans about access to mental health services.
Last year, more than 47,000 Americans died by suicide. That made suicide the 10th leading cause of death for all ages.
According to the VA, the suicide rate is one and a half times greater for veterans than non-veteran adults.
Artreze Jones, a veteran, attempted suicide in 2001.
“I had a self-inflicted gunshot wound. I was depressed, I was down and out, my mother passed away, so I was at a low point in my life,” Jones told CBS46’s Melissa Stern.
“I felt lonely, I felt like nobody would understand me,” Jones added. “Just couldn’t take it anymore.”
He survived his attempt and was invited to speak at the Atlanta VA’s Mental Health Summit today.
“I’m here now, as a survivor, to tell my story, and to encourage other people not to do something dramatic that will affect your life, your family’s life, and everybody who cares about you,” Jones said.
Jones said many veterans are suffering and wants them to realize all the help that’s out there, like he finally did.
“Never give up. Life is a beautiful thing,” added Jones.
The transition into everyday life is difficult for many veterans, and that’s why the Atlanta VA Health Care System is hosting this summit and directing veterans to services that best match with their needs.
“We certainly want veterans and their family members to always be aware of the mental health services that are available,” Dr. Monique Hunter, an Atlanta VA Mental Health Psychologist said.
They discussed resources available for veterans in the LGBTQ community, veterans contemplating suicide, female veterans, veterans who suffered traumatic injuries, and much more.
“The ultimate test is when a veteran, he or she, doesn’t get the necessary things they need, like benefits, medical, dental assistance,” Jones said.
This summit is an opportunity for the Atlanta VA to collaborate with partners in the community to better support the needs of veterans and their families.
“We can’t do it by ourselves, so we need the community to really rally around how we support veterans,” added Hunter. “What is it that we can do to curb the number of veterans that are dying by suicide? Often, we hear about the 20 veterans per day, on average, that die by suicide, and I think that number is telling,” she said.
Jones says he asked God one question when he survived shooting himself in the head: “What do I do now? Now that I’m alive,” Jones said.
So, along with the Atlanta VA, Jones is sharing his story to help others like himself.
If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone, the Veterans Crisis Line is open any time at 1-800-273-8255. Confidential crisis chat is also available at VeteransCrisisLine.net as well as via text to 838255.