'Struggled for years.' Harnett Co. event focuses on veterans' mental health, death by suicide rates

Akilah Davis Image
Saturday, June 24, 2023
Hope in Harnett: Suicide prevention event targets veterans
Hope in Harnett event focused on mental health

Sarah Smith carries a piece of her late husband Sergeant First Class James Smith with her every day in the form of a bracelet, ring and necklace displaying that display his fingerprint. He died by suicide in September of 2019 and she said not a day goes by that he isn't missed.

"When you lose somebody, your love doesn't change. It stays the same," said Sarah Smith.

"He had struggled for years. We had PTSD as an issue. We had several attempts before. looking back on it I feel like I did miss signs."

PTSD, depression and anxiety are just some challenges veterans like her husband suffer from. According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is a leading cause of death in this country.

On Friday, Hope In Harnett: Suicide Prevention event with speakers, a panelist and a resource fair in the library.

According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, a report shows suicides decreased among veterans of all racial groups between 2019 and 2020. Those years saw the biggest decrease in the suicide count rate since 2001 at 307 and 343 deaths. Among women veterans, the suicide rate fell by 14 percent compared to 8 percent among non-veteran women.

Organizers believe this kind of effort creates a safe space so they don't have to soldier through the pain alone. The numbers displayed here show just how critical the veteran suicide crisis is.

The next event will be held September 15, 2023, at Manna Student Center Fayetteville. It's called "Hold Onto Hope."

It's something Smith can relate to as she hopes to shine light in a dark place.

"You're used to them being gone with deployments," she said. "It took a really long time to sink in that he wasn't coming back."

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