Around 17 veterans commit suicide every day, according to the CDC and Veterans Affairs, and the veteran suicide rate is roughly 57% higher than non-veteran adults.
Just a few years ago, Marine veteran Phil Krabbe almost became part of that devastating statistic.
Crabbe's mental health battles began after a traumatic incident during his third deployment. The loss of two marines and severe injuries to three others left him emotionally drained and without coping skills. He turned to substance abuse as a way to numb the pain, leading to a 15-year struggle with addiction, depression, anxiety, migraines, and nightmares.
"I would stay awake for three or four days straight. That way I wouldn't have to go to sleep. That way I wouldn't have any nightmares. And as soon as my head hit the pillow, I knew I would be out. I did that for quite a long time," Crabbe said.
He even found himself contemplating suicide.
"On November 30, 2020, I was standing in my kitchen at 3:00 in the morning, and I was having another episode of just that depression creeping in on me. It kept telling me, you can end this real quick. And that particular day, I agreed with it," Crabbe said.
But thankfully, in that moment, he was reminded of his promise to a friend and, most importantly, his seven-year-old son. This pivotal moment led him to seek help and start his journey to recovery. Crabbe credits the Wounded Warrior Project for being a guiding presence throughout his recovery process.
"The prevalence piece comes around some of the difficulties that I think our military servicemen and women, our veterans face as they're transitioning out of the military," says Dr. Erin Fletcher, a psychologist with the Wounded Warrior Project.
"Some of them are coming out with symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder depression, anxiety, feeling isolated and alone and without a sense of purpose. When they were in the military, they had a mission every day. They knew what they were fighting for. They knew what their job was.
"Coming out of that without coping skills and without a sense of purpose, it can often feel like the only way out is to end your life. But as Phil described, there is hope and there is treatment that works. And we want to have these conversations to talk about it. To know that, one, you're not alone, and two, there is help and there is hope," Fletcher says.
The rates of suicidal thoughts are even more pronounced within the demographic facing financial challenges. This is particularly alarming, as 64% of WWP warriors reported difficulties in making ends meet at some point in the past year.
Crabbe says his financial issues were a big part of why he felt so hopeless in 2020.
"It impacted my sense of hope tremendously. When you're constantly worried about how to pay the bills and put food on the table, it's hard to see a brighter future," Crabbe remembers.
Dr. Fletcher says Wounded Warrior Project has programs that address the underlying risk factors for suicide.
"We're looking to build connections. We're looking to build mental health and wellness and resiliency. We have programs to address your physical health and wellness, your financial health and wellness, as Phil talked about, through financial education, through employment services, through VA benefit services. And we provide suicide prevention training and education to raise awareness and help build safer, more supportive communities, because everyone can play a role in suicide prevention," Dr. Fletcher adds.
To find out more about the available resources for veterans visit www.woundedwarriorproject.org/preventsuicide.