Check A Vet Seeks Community Support to Help End Veteran Suicide
An estimated 22 US veterans die by suicide every day. Check A Vet is a non-profit program that seeks to end veteran suicide through new outreach strategies and community support. Tracy Ross speaks to the president and founder of Check A Vet, Michael Carmichael.
"We've lost 30,177 veterans since 9/11 to suicide," Carmichael begins. "Compare that to the number of how many troops we've lost conducting combat operations—just over 7,000. Now, when you look at that number, it really doesn't represent the whole swath of military impact on suicide."
Carmichael explains that all individuals close to the military are at risk. This includes veterans, active duty, reservists, the National Guard, and the spouses and independents of service members. "When we add all that up," he says, "the problem is tremendous."
Carmichael retired from the US military in 2016 as the Strategic Plans Officer for the 5th Special Forces Group in Fort Campbell. He noticed that most veteran outreach programs centered around special events, like concerts, fishing, and hunting.
While these events give distressed veterans (veterans experiencing suicidal thoughts or ideation) something to look forward to, they return to their previous situations after the event is over. Carmichael's Check A Vet program seeks to create sustained community support.
This support is particularly crucial because of how service members are trained. "From the time that we show up at boot camp, it's driven into us to be tough," Carmichael says. "Even when we're scared. For tough guys and gals, to reach out for help is very difficult. For us to talk to each other meaningfully about it—seldom happens."
Check A Vet keeps this in mind when approaching veterans. "We're not trying to get in veterans' heads and expose any demons," he continues. "We're just trying to be a friend or family member that is there for our veterans to, honestly, just have a relationship."
The program focuses on two categories of suicide factors: risk and protective. Risk factors include isolation and substance abuse. Protective factors include community support and healthy coping mechanisms. The Check A Vet website offers a comprehensive list of both.
Carmichael says that many families who have experienced veteran suicide have been taken by surprise. "They don't know why it happened," he says. "But as they look back, it's pretty much the same thing—they wish they had done more to be a part of that veterans' life. So, let's do that before that veteran ends their life."
Check A Vet is seeking donations to spread awareness through national advertising and marketing campaigns. "As a rule, wherever I raise money from, I spend that money in that community in that state," Carmichael says. He says that Kentucky ranks 12th-highest in statewide veteran suicide rates. Any money raised by WKMS listeners will be used in the local area.