LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Jeremy Harrell is a veteran who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Now his mission is with the Veteran’s Club, an organization that provides outreach and resources to veterans who return to the Commonwealth.
He says that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a particularly trying time for veterans.
“Been getting more calls and emails than usual about how can you guys help me,” said Harrell. "I try to be patient and try to be resilient through the pandemic and all the stress that comes with that.”
Harrell says that every day, anywhere from 17 to 23 veterans commit suicide. It’s a grim number, but it’s a number that the entire community can rally together to improve.
"We need to make people more aware, but not just awareness, but to provide solutions on how we mitigate this issue,” said Harrell.
For Harrell, he recently lost someone he knew to suicide. He said that the current stress of the COVID-19 pandemic became too much.
“I worked with someone in the past, and it wasn’t so much the trauma in the military that he went through, but how he was affected by everything around him,” he said.
Harrell says that the best way to combat veteran suicide is engagement. It is true that in today’s world of social distancing, this can be a challenge. But, he says the community can work together and get creative on ways to safely gather and show their support to a veteran neighbor.
“Why is intimate partner violence up 86 percent, why are overdoses up, alcohol abuse up because vets are self-medicating because right now, a lot of them, the most vulnerable are triggered,” said Harrell.
The Veteran’s Club has been actively using social media and video calls to help keep veterans connected and engaged. Luckily, they’ve been able to coordinate and resume programs like equine and jeep therapy while following CDC and state guidelines.
Harrell says every day Kentuckians don’t have to establish an elaborate program. All you have to do is invest a little time.
“What can I do, and one of the ways of doing that is by having conversations,” he said.