As Veteran Suicide Grows, National Guard Highest In Active Military

Suicide is a public health concern in the U.S., particularly among Hispanics-Latinos

Sergeant William Davidson had been struggling with mental health problems since his deployment to Afghanistan. When he didn’t attend at least one of his Connecticut National Guard drill weekends, the Guard declared him AWOL (absent without leave) and discharged him with a “bad paper” separation. Four months after his discharge, Davidson, 24, fatally shot himself.

Davidson, who had two younger sisters, is one among thousands of veterans who die by suicide each year. Despite national goals to prevent veteran suicides, they occur at disproportionately higher rates than in the general population.

More than 78,000 veterans died by suicide between 2005 and 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Veteran suicide deaths rose from 5,787 in 2005 to 6,139 in 2017. In the active military, the National Guard, with a suicide rate of 30.6 per 100,000, has the highest rate of any branch, according to the most recent Department of Defense Annual Suicide Report. The overall rate among all active military components was 24.8. This is occurring against a backdrop of rising suicides among all Americans.

“The numbers don’t do anything but grow,” said Davidson’s mother, Donna Chapman of Suffield. “We’re continuing to fail. I’m sick of it. Everyone’s sick of it,” she said.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a survey of 5,412 people between June 24 and 30 and the collected data on suicides is alarming. The amount of Americans reporting anxiety symptoms is triple the number of this time last year, reported Forbes. According to the CDC, 19% of Hispanics-Latinos reported suicidal ideation.”

Serving in the Guard is unlike other military service. Guard members don’t live on bases. Most are part-time, typically attending monthly weekend drills and two weeks of training in the summer, leaving them isolated from military leaders and empathetic peers.

In the last year, the National Guard has stepped up suicide prevention and wellness efforts. The goal is to get ahead of the suicide problem by providing support long before people get suicide ideations, officials said. It awarded the Connecticut Guard $225,500 for a program designed to mitigate behaviors that increase suicide risk and for conferences on suicide prevention and military culture for community clinicians and counselors who work with the Guard through the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

Last year, the VA’s Vet Centers agreed to provide counseling and referral services at Guard drill weekends, including for Guard families and veterans. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented many in-person meetings. Under the arrangement, if veterans don’t meet eligibility requirements for continuous VA health care, counselors “will make every effort” to connect them to other resources. Guard veterans who have not been federally activated for service in places like Iraq aren’t eligible for VA health care.

In Connecticut, active Guard members have had access to counselors from Vet Centers and from the state mental health department for years, officials said.

Jolene Montalvo retired from the Connecticut Natural Guard and has struggled with mental health illnesses. She’s pictured with her friend’s dog, Beast.

Jolene Montalvo, of Middletown, was a full-time Connecticut National Guard member. She attempted suicide twice in 2013, a year after she retired. The first time, she called a friend to say goodbye. The friend contacted 911, saving Montalvo’s life. The next time, Montalvo was discreet and walked to a cemetery to overdose on vodka and pills. After about 18 hours, state police found her “in pretty bad condition,” she said.

Montalvo, who was born on the Groton Submarine Base, said that after serving in Iraq, she suffered from anxiety, depression, insomnia and bipolar disorder, and began drinking heavily. The transition home to motherhood and her Guard job as a recruiter was a “culture shock” after the constant noise from mortars in Iraq and continuous worry about the safety of people in her command. “I was having a really hard time with reintegration,” she said.

She retired in 2012, but a miscalculation put her retirement date two days short of a 20-year career and retirement pay. “I was in no state of mind to be representing myself during that time,” she said. She is now appealing the date with help from the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center.

Montalvo, 45, receives counseling and medical care through a VA program that helps patients live independently. She said her counselor “has saved my life many times. I love this woman.”

In Connecticut, from 2015 to 2019, VA suicide prevention coordinators helped more than 2,500 veterans or families of veterans who sought assistance from the national Veterans Crisis Line, according to Jessica Loss, a coordinator. She said emergency responders rescued 345 veterans from taking their own lives, adding that 716 callers reported a history of suicide attempts, and 746 reported suicidal thoughts. Her team helped train some local police about veterans with mental health problems.

“What we’re doing is equipping veterans, families and communities with tools to identify signs of suicide,” she said.

In a survey taken last December and January of members of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), 44% reported suicide ideation since joining the military, and 62% said they know a veteran who has died by suicide, a 22% increase since 2014. Thomas Porter, an IAVA executive vice president, called that increase “really shocking” and “huge.”

In June, the Trump administration issued a veterans’ suicide prevention plan designed to raise public awareness, encourage safe firearms storage, identify effective research and increase federal coordination with community mental health providers. About 70% of veterans who die by suicide use firearms, according to the VA.

Proposals in Congress to address veteran suicide include grants to community organizations that treat veterans; automatic one-year eligibility for VA health care; and training in suicide prevention and military culture for community providers that contract with the VA.

Chapman, Davidson’s mother, said Guard leadership missed “red flags” that pointed to her son’s problems. In 2016, Davidson appealed his less than honorable discharge status and requested a medical discharge with full benefits. The VA had diagnosed him with combat-related post-traumatic stress. The appeal was denied, but he never knew. The Army Board for Corrections of Military Records issued an advisory decision in May, 2017, four months after his death the previous January. His mother received the final decision last December.

Chapman has made the prevention of veterans’ suicide her mission. She is raising money to build a veterans’ retreat center in her son’s honor and does public speaking about veteran suicide. “We’ve lost so many this way. It’s unacceptable,” she said.

(Cover photo: Donna Chapman gives her son, Sergeant William Davidson a kiss. Davidson struggled with mental health disorders after his deployment in Afghanistan and killed himself in 2017.)

Publisher’s Note: CTLN and collaborate to best serve the Connecticut Hispanic, Latino community.


130 thoughts on “As Veteran Suicide Grows, National Guard Highest In Active Military

  1. Hmm is anyone else encountering problems with the pictures on this blog loading? I’m trying to find out if its a problem on my end or if it’s the blog. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

  2. Thanks so much for giving everyone an extraordinarily terrific opportunity to read from here. It really is so pleasing and as well , stuffed with amusement for me and my office co-workers to search the blog minimum 3 times in a week to read through the fresh guides you have got. And lastly, I am actually pleased for the spectacular guidelines served by you. Selected 3 ideas on this page are unequivocally the most suitable we have had.

  3. Nice blog right here! Also your web site quite a bit up very fast! What web host are you the usage of? Can I get your associate link on your host? I desire my web site loaded up as fast as yours lol

  4. You can definitely see your skills in the paintings you write. The sector hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who aren’t afraid to say how they believe. Always go after your heart.

  5. I’ve been absent for some time, but now I remember why I used to love this blog. Thanks, I will try and check back more frequently. How frequently you update your website?

  6. Great ?V I should definitely pronounce, impressed with your site. I had no trouble navigating through all tabs as well as related info ended up being truly simple to do to access. I recently found what I hoped for before you know it in the least. Quite unusual. Is likely to appreciate it for those who add forums or something, site theme . a tones way for your customer to communicate. Nice task..

  7. Hi! I’ve been following your weblog for a while now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Porter Tx! Just wanted to mention keep up the excellent job!

  8. Very good written story. It will be useful to anybody who employess it, including yours truly :). Keep up the good work – looking forward to more posts.

  9. hey there and thank you for your information – I’ve certainly picked up anything new from right here. I did however expertise several technical points using this site, as I experienced to reload the site many times previous to I could get it to load properly. I had been wondering if your web host is OK? Not that I am complaining, but sluggish loading instances times will often affect your placement in google and could damage your high quality score if advertising and marketing with Adwords. Well I am adding this RSS to my e-mail and can look out for much more of your respective interesting content. Ensure that you update this again very soon..

  10. Just wanna comment on few general things, The website layout is perfect, the articles is rattling excellent. “Drop the question what tomorrow may bring, and count as profit every day that fate allows you.” by Horace.

  11. I was very pleased to find this web-site.I wanted to thanks for your time for this wonderful read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you blog post.

  12. I like what you guys are up also. Such smart work and reporting! Keep up the excellent works guys I have incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it’ll improve the value of my site 🙂

  13. My brother suggested I might like this web site. He was entirely right. This post actually made my day. You can not imagine just how much time I had spent for this info! Thanks!

  14. Howdy would you mind letting me know which web host you’re using? I’ve loaded your blog in 3 completely different web browsers and I must say this blog loads a lot quicker then most. Can you recommend a good hosting provider at a reasonable price? Cheers, I appreciate it!

  15. What i don’t realize is actually how you are not really much more well-liked than you may be now. You’re very intelligent. You realize therefore considerably relating to this subject, made me personally consider it from a lot of varied angles. Its like women and men aren’t fascinated unless it is one thing to do with Lady gaga! Your own stuffs outstanding. Always maintain it up!

  16. Very interesting details you have noted, thanks for posting. “Never call an accountant a credit to his profession a good accountant is a debit to his profession.” by Charles J. C. Lyall.

  17. Hey there! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any problems with hackers? My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing several weeks of hard work due to no data backup. Do you have any methods to protect against hackers?

  18. Hiya, I’m really glad I’ve found this information. Nowadays bloggers publish just about gossips and web and this is really frustrating. A good blog with interesting content, that is what I need. Thanks for keeping this web site, I’ll be visiting it. Do you do newsletters? Cant find it.

  19. I’ve been browsing online greater than 3 hours lately, but I never discovered any fascinating article like yours. It is pretty price sufficient for me. In my opinion, if all webmasters and bloggers made excellent content material as you probably did, the web can be a lot more useful than ever before. “Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons.” by Walt Whitman.

  20. Thanks a lot for sharing this with all of us you actually know what you are talking about! Bookmarked. Please also visit my site =). We could have a link exchange contract between us!

  21. The next time I learn a weblog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as a lot as this one. I mean, I do know it was my choice to learn, but I truly thought youd have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about one thing that you could repair in the event you werent too busy on the lookout for attention.

  22. I cherished as much as you’ll receive performed right here. The cartoon is tasteful, your authored subject matter stylish. however, you command get got an shakiness over that you would like be turning in the following. unwell undoubtedly come more in the past once more since exactly the same nearly a lot steadily within case you defend this hike.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *