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NEWS | Oct. 3, 2018

Motorcyclists Ride to Increase Awareness of Veteran Suicides

By Maj. Dan Marchik 416th Theater Engineer Command

At a time when U.S. suicide rates of military veterans are 22 percent higher than non-veterans, according to a 2017 report by the Department of Veterans Affairs, this event emphasized that it’s everyone’s job to help prevent suicide and veterans are not alone in their struggle.

“I thought this would be a good way to raise awareness of military and veteran suicide,” said David Gilleland, Suicide Prevention Program Manager for the 416th Theater Engineering Command and one of the event organizers.

Although this is the inaugural event, Gilleland hopes to make this an annual event.

The ride came after a two-day training session for a program called Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST). ASIST helps people recognize and take action for those displaying thoughts or suicidal tendencies. The program brought together military and community members, including civilian social workers and therapists, in order to better recognize the struggles of people with thoughts of suicide.

Once equipped with these skills, one never knows when they’ll be needed.

“I was having a problem with the role playing during the class and didn’t know what to say, but when I got the call, the words just came,” said Mike, an attendee of the recent ASIST program who used his skills on Saturday morning to help a friend who was talking about suicide.

“My heart was really beating when I was talking to my friend, but I just kept him on the phone until help arrived”, explained Mike.

Candace Jacobson, president and founder of Forgotten Sons Homeless Veterans Charity, is one of the other event organizers and focuses her organization’s efforts on veterans facing a variety of issues. Her organization helps veterans facing suicidal thoughts, addiction and PTSD, but also homelessness, which can be a major contributor to the other issues.

“The issues surrounding homelessness go deeper than just a veteran who is homeless,” said Jacobson.

Her organization also helps with job training in order to give veterans a sense of belonging and structure which they may miss from the military.

The ride started at 10 a.m. in Darien, Ill. at the Parkhurst Reserve Center and ended in Melrose Park at the Warehouse on 15th, and featured a free lunch and music.