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MIDDLETOWN, NY — Sen. Jen Metzger and Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther (AD-100) joined veterans, veteran organizations, and local and county representatives last week at the American Legion Post 151 Hall to announce new legislation—to be brought forth in the 2020 legislative session—that would designate September 22 as Veteran Suicide Awareness and Remembrance Day. Metzger is carrying the bill in the State Senate and Gunther in the State Assembly.
The month of September is recognized as National Suicide Prevention Month and, according to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), on average, 22 veterans per day commit suicide. According to a 2016 National Suicide Data Report from the VA, when compared to the general adult population, the rate of suicide among veterans was 1.4 times higher among male veterans and 1.8 times higher among female veterans. In 2016 alone, 153 veterans in New York committed suicide.
“In New York and across our country, the invisible wounds of war have led to alarmingly high suicide rates among veterans,” said Metzger. “That’s why I have introduced legislation designating September 22 as Veteran Suicide Awareness and Remembrance Day, together with my assembly partner, Aileen Gunther. By creating an annual observance, we recognize and remember those we have lost, elevate this issue in public consciousness, and bring attention to the need to address the root causes so that we can prevent the further tragic loss of life in our veteran community.”
Gunther said, “Our veterans have sacrificed everything they had to serve our country and to make sure all of us here at home could be free. What some veterans face out on the battlefield, and in some cases what they face when they return, can be unimaginable. I’m hopeful this day of recognition will continue to reduce the stigma of mental health issues and will be a catalyst for more state funding for important veterans programs.”
The idea for the legislation first came out of a conversation between Metzger and constituent, Manny Tirado, a veteran who serves on the MTA NYC Transit Veterans Resource Group, which is part of the Transit Diversity Council and is the official veteran’s organization for New York City Transit employees who are military veterans and active reservists.