Temple: VA Stand Down aimed at reducing an alarming statistic

The Central Texas Veterans Health Care System held an event Wednesday as part of a nationwide effort to reduce veteran suicides. (Photo by Megan Vanselow)

TEMPLE, Texas (KWTX) The Central Texas Veterans Health Care System held an event Wednesday as part of a nationwide effort to reduce veteran suicides.

The Department of Veterans Affairs reports at least 60,000 veterans died by suicide over the last decade, and many of the veterans who attended the seventh annual Suicide Stand Down Wednesday said suicide has impacted their lives in some way.

"I've been out going on eight years and I've had friends take their own lives," Marine Corps veteran Scott Babbitt said.

The Temple VA's Suicide Prevention Coordinator, Lisa Fowler, says nationally more than 20 veterans commit suicide a day.

For suicide awareness month, the VA is trying to let all veterans know about the resources the VA offers.

"Fourteen out of 20 of our veterans who commit suicide have never been to a VA so we feel like if we can bring our veterans in here to show them what the VA is doing for them and show them what kinds of things are available here that they can access for free things that they're not really use utilizing that's great therapy," Fowler said.

Babbitt says he's part of a two-month program at the VA for inpatient treatment for combat PTSD.

"We all deal with the same demons we all struggle myself I've never attempted suicide I've had suicide idealizations," Babbitt said.

"All of us veterans can relate in one way or another to each other. It's actually another great camaraderie I've never met these guys before but now I feel like they're my brothers just the same brotherhood that was in the Marines."

Wednesday’s event was geared around local, free ways for vets to get involved in the community and find purpose.

"We know that the people that have community cohesion that are tied to the community are less likely to commit suicide most of the veterans who commit suicide are suffering from treatable disorders, depression, anxiety, PTSD, substance abuse," Fowler said.

Gardeners, state parks and animal shelters offered veterans a positive hobbies along with Camp Cowboy, a unique equestrian experience designed specifically for veterans and first responders.

"We see these people just be able to kind of change from being angry isolated dealing with some depression whatever it is and they find through the horses that they have passion for life," Director of Operations, Katherine Stam said.

The VA encourages veterans wrestling with depression, anxiety or other issues to reach out to other veterans of veterans groups, talk with relatives and friends, and to take care of themselves both physically and mentally.

The VA operates a 24/7 Veterans Crisis Line. Dial 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.