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Pikes Peak Newspapers Editor Michelle Karas

“Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”

According to a Google search, former talk-show host Phil Donahue came up with the adage. A lot of people seem to disagree with this quote, but for me it rings true. It’s not that I agree that suicide is a solution to anything. Treatment is the solution. But suicide is undeniably permanent. And it can be prevented.

Approximately 20 veterans die by suicide every day. The veteran suicide rate is 1.5 times higher than those who have not served in the military, according to an April 2019 report by the New York Times.

“High rates of homelessness, traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress and a military culture that can be resistant to seeking help are all aggravating factors for veterans, whose rates of suicide have been the subject of numerous hearings on Capitol Hill,” states the article.

Pikes Peak Mission to Zero — an event held Sunday in Green Mountain Falls by the Pikes Peak Chapter 3-2 Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association to help raise awareness of and help prevent veteran suicide — contends that number of daily veteran suicides is closer to 22.

Regardless of the number, “We can all agree that one is too many!” wrote Pikes Peak Mission to Zero on its Facebook page. The aim of the event is to reduce the number of veteran suicide deaths to nil. “It’s all about raising the awareness of veteran suicide.”

Some sobering statistics:

• A big reason for suicide is untreated depression, and depression is highly treatable.

• Most veterans who commit suicide are not in treatment, according to the American Association of Suicidology.

• More men (3.5 times) than women commit suicide, most suicides (70 percent) are white males, and firearms account for more than half of all suicide deaths, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (2017 data).

• Men make up roughly 85 percent of our active military, 70 percent of whom are white.

• Guns are used in the majority of veteran suicides.

• Colorado has the 10th highest active-duty military population — just under 37,000 — in the country, states americaspromise.org.

• In Colorado, suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 15-44 (behind vehicle crashes), states AFSP. It’s the 7th overall leading cause of death in the state.

Pikes Peak Mission to Zero was timed just a couple of weeks before Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, September. All proceeds benefited the nonprofit BattleForged Nation, which helps to link veterans with resources that provide assistance to improve their quality of life.

The free event opened with a group motorcycle ride up Pikes Peak and afterward drew hundreds to Green Mountain Falls, where the main road was closed off so there was more room to congregate. The crowd came for camaraderie, informational booths, vendors, a raffle, food, a biergarten, a concert by Colorado Springs band Wirewood Station.

Despite the seriousness of the cause that inspired the event, a decidedly positive vibe was in the air. Veterans came out to support veterans and the community also rallied behind this cause.

We are failing our country if we don’t find a way to prevent our veterans from taking their own lives. They fought for us, we need to be there for them. Kudos to the CVMA Chapter 3-2 on this wonderful fund- and awareness-raising event.

“We leave no one behind and that means during the hardest of times away and the most difficult times at home,” stated PPMZ on its Facebook page.

If you are a veteran struggling with suicide, please tell someone — you can call the Veterans Crisis Line for free: 1-800-273-TALK, text 838255 or chat online at veteranscrisisline.net/get-help/chat.

Michelle Karas has called the Pikes Peak region home for four years. She became editor of Pikes Peak Newspapers in June 2019. Contact Michelle at michelle.karas@pikespeaknewspapers.com

Editor, Pikes Peak Newspapers

In June 2019, Michelle became editor of the four Pikes Peak Newspapers: Pikes Peak Courier; The Tribune; and the Cheyenne and Woodmen editions. A Penn State journalism graduate, she joined the Gazette staff in 2015.

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