HONOLULU (KHON2) — This morning on Take2 we want to discuss an issue that is very important. It was about veterans and suicide. Suicide rates have been historically high among young veterans. Older veteran’s suicide rates have been high as well. Between 2001 and 2020, the suicide rate among veterans between the ages of 18 and 34 increased by more than 95%. During that same period, the suicide rate among veterans between the ages of 55 and 74 rose over 58%.
Colonel Rob Swanson, a retired Air Force Weather Officer, joined us this morning to not only tell us about his own experience, but how veterans can get help anytime they need it with a simple phone call. Suicide became very personal to Rob when he suffered with depression. But he did something about it that all veterans suffering from depression must do…seek help. After he recovered, he took it much further and he continues to help other any way that he can, and mostly by just spreading the important message, ‘You are not alone’. He continues to speak to crowds wherever he can to help those struggling with depression and/or thoughts of suicide.
We asked Rob to share his experience with us and tell us what he has done to help those in need.
When asked about his experience, he said, “Twenty-five years ago, I was struggling with depression, feeling hopeless to cope with the stressors and pressures in my life, which culminated in two suicide attempts. I endured a difficult journey back, but The Good Lord kept me alive, and so I felt the need to come forward about my story and work towards preventing suicide in others. I’m now involved in the Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide Among Service Members, Veterans, and their Families, as well as other suicide prevention programs and initiatives.”
Rob discussed what he thought people need to understand about suicide. “How greatly a single suicide affects those around them. We know that about 120-150 people are affected by a single suicide, and the child of a parent who dies by suicide is 50%-70% more likely to die by suicide as well. We need to emphasize how important we are to those around us.”
Rob believes there is a key to preventing suicide with veterans. “The most important thing to emphasize is connection. I lead the Fight For Each Other training program where we share veterans’ survival stories and really connect with one another. We’re all vulnerable to depression and suicide, and we all need connection and support.”
He went on to say that there are ways that military leaders can support suicide prevention with their troops, and it starts at the top. “Sometimes (in the military) we need permission to do something. If our leaders demonstrate vulnerability and admit they need assistance, this gives everyone else permission to reach out for help too.”
There are definitely good resources veterans have if they’re struggling with suicidal thoughts. Veterans can dial 988 and then press 1 to access the Veterans Crisis Line. Rob also encourages veterans and loved ones of veterans to attend one of his Fighting For Each Other Briefings. You can find more information at facebook.com/fightforeachother.