Summit To Focus On Veterans Suicide Awareness And Prevention
Mayor Alvin Brown is setting his sights on an issue that continues to threaten the well-being of our city’s large and growing veterans community: the suicide rate among our veterans. The City of Jacksonville Military Affairs, Veterans and Disabled Services Department (MAVDS) is teaming up with the University of North Florida’s Military and Veterans Resource Center (UNF MVRC) to host Jacksonville’s second annual Veterans Summit, and Mayor Brown wants suicide awareness and prevention to be the major topic of discussion.
“The suicide rate among veterans is astounding,” said Mayor Brown. “I cannot – we cannot – stand by and watch this number tick higher. These men and women are the defenders of our freedom. It’s our responsibility to take action, to talk to veterans, to work with mental health professionals, to do whatever is necessary to help our local heroes help themselves and stay safe. This is among the most pressing issues facing our armed services, and I believe it’s our duty to play a role in its resolution within our military community.”
According to a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) study release on February 1 of this year, the number of suicides among veterans has increased overall since 1999. At the turn of the millennium, it is estimated that 20 veterans in the U.S. committed suicide each day. In 2010, the most recent period for which data is available, the number had crept up to 22 veterans per day. This represents a veteran suicide every 65 minutes. UNF MVRC Director Ray Wikstrom hopes the summit will raise awareness in the Jacksonville community and, ultimately, contribute to local solutions that can help alleviate the problem.
“Like Jacksonville, UNF has a very high military and veteran population in relation to its total size. As more and more vets return home from war, make a home here and enroll at our university to pursue degrees, we must ensure that we continue to be a leading institution for veteran resources and services. This summit is an important event for our city and for UNF, and we’re proud to partner with Mayor Brown to assist our nation’s finest. I’m confident that together we can engage this issue in a meaningful way.”
The summit will take place on Thursday, April 11 from 10:00am-2:00pm at UNF’s Adam W. Herbert University Center. The event will bring together a diverse gathering of veterans, support groups, family members, service providers and other stakeholders in an effort to develop strategies to keep local veterans safe. The summit will also attempt to shed light on how the VA’s national figures translate into local effects within the Jacksonville community. Mayor Brown, MAVDS Director Rear Admiral (ret.) Vic Guillory and Director Wikstrom will deliver opening remarks. Ms. Toula Wootan, Community Development Officer for Community Hospice of Northeast Florida, who also created the organization’s Veterans Partnership, will be the summit’s keynote speaker. Three breakout sessions featuring subject matter expert facilitators will also take place, and the individual sessions’ subtopics are:
- Cause and Effect: Why does it happen and who does it affect?
- Impacts and Shared Experiences: What are real, personal impacts and shared experiences?
- Signs and Symptoms: What are the warning signs and are these suicides preventable?
A working lunch will then take place followed by a session wrap-up and a presentation of summit findings.
The summit is open to the general public, and all interested citizens, particularly those involved in our wide array of veteran support organizations, are encouraged to attend. Seats are limited, and the online registration form can be found here
. Following the summit, MAVDS and the UNF MVRC will release a list of sustainable and measurable outcomes that will play a role in shaping future veterans outreach policy and actions.
The City of Jacksonville has the largest concentration of military veterans in the state of Florida. Mayor Alvin Brown has made military and veterans affairs a top priority within his administration. Among his first actions as mayor was to elevate the MAVDS director position to a cabinet-level post. Under Mayor Brown’s leadership, the City has embarked on several high-profile military and veterans-oriented initiatives including the 2012 Week of Valor, the Jobs for Vets program and the Navy-Marine Corps Classic basketball game.