Coast group 'crusades' to bring awareness to suicide, veterans with PTSD

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - On average, 20 veterans die by suicide each day, many of them suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. One Gulf Coast organization is reaching out to our military-filled community, hoping to bring those numbers down.

Crusaders for Veterans hosted a walk Saturday morning to raise awareness for PTSD, a disorder that leads to a higher suicide rate in veterans.

"It's severe," said Kevin Cuttill, a member of the Crusaders organization. "We have so many people coming back from multiple tours. We've got people here that have 100 percent disability just from PTSD. Multiple tours, going over and seeing things that people just aren't supposed to ever see."

Crusaders for Veterans work with honorably discharged veterans in emergency situations, assisting them with things of all nature, ranging from big to small. The group helps former servicemen and women keep an open line of communication with a Veteran Service Officer. They also provide resources as veterans return home from deployments or are transitioning to civilian life.

"It's getting out of control," said Cuttill. "Guys are coming back, they're reaching out for help. They don't know where to go to, they don't know who to talk to. Some places kind of shrug and push them off and that frustrates them even more. So we're out here trying to stop suicides, let them know there are groups out there that are here to help. Don't be alone. Don't isolate. Isolating is the biggest problem."

Saturday's walk was one of many efforts the Crusaders do throughout the year to bring more attention to veterans and their needs. The PTSD awareness walk over the Biloxi-Ocean Springs bridge brought out dozens of people, eager to lace up their shoes and walk or run to help shine more light on a growing problem.

"Everybody says 22 (suicides) a day," said Cuttill. "Statistics show it's not going down and that's what we're trying to stop. If we can stop one, it's well worth it."

Suicides committed by veterans account for 18 percent of all suicide deaths. That's according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, who conducted a large study in 2014 on the issue. In Mississippi, the numbers are consistent with those across the country. The majority of veterans who commit suicide are men with PTSD ranging in age from 55 to 74. Firearms are used significantly more than any other means.

It's numbers like these that Crusaders for Veterans want to help lower. And they can use all the help they can get achieving that goal. Cuttill says they need volunteers for every event the Crusaders do. Anyone who wants to help is welcome to volunteer.

June is PTSD Awareness Month. For more information on PTSD for everyone, including those who are not veterans, visit the National Center for PTSD online.

Veterans who are in crisis or having thoughts of suicide, and those who know a veteran in crisis, can call the Veterans Crisis Line for confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Call 800-273-8255 and press 1; chat online with the Veterans Crisis Line; or, send a text to 838255.

Read more statistics from the VA on veteran suicides below: 

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