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New report says mental health still a major issue for veterans

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) - As many as twenty veterans commit suicide every day in the United States, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. A new report by the Wounded Warrior Project shows the mental health battle for those who have served or are still serving is far from over.

The veteran mental health problem is hitting Utah hard. Between 2012 and 2016, more than 380 Utah veterans took their own lives.

For Utah veteran Michael Graham, the road hasn't been easy. He's struggled with substance abuse, is a double cancer survivor, and a navy veteran.

"I've been diagnosed with PTSD and it is a struggle and I see a lot of my fellow vets struggle with it," said Graham.

A new report by the Wounded Warrior Project sheds light on the continuing mental health battle. Of more than 30,000 veterans surveyed, 78 percent of them say they struggle with PTSD. David Rozek with the National Center for Veterans Studies at the University of Utah shares another alarming statistic.

"Suicide and suicidal thoughts are probably one of the biggest things we hear from veterans. We know veterans with PTSD are actually at a higher risk of suicide attempt," said Rozek.

Rozek says for some it can be difficult asking for help.

"Sometimes veterans don't like to go to the VA. Whether they've had a bad experience, or they don't like their provider, or they just don't want it on record at the VA," said Rozek.

At the National Center for Veterans Studies, they offer free mental help for veterans and their families. 

As for the answer to solving the mental health issue for veterans, the answer is not easy, according to experts.

"The biggest thing that we need to focus on again is kind of destigmatizing the mental health treatments. It's not an easy goal, it's not something that's going to be fixed overnight," said Rozek.

According to Graham, there's another route as well. 

"I think we need more community outreach, to get to the veterans who aren't able to help themselves," said Graham.

Graham says he still has his struggles, but failure is not an option.

"I will be successful in my recovery. That's just a forgone conclusion," said Graham.

To contact the National Center for Veterans Studies us about treatment, veterans can send an email to ncvs@utah.edu or call us at 801-587-7978.

Their website is linked here.


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