NEW YORK (NBC) – Veterans place flags on National Mall to draw attention to troubling military suicide rate. For Kris Goldsmith, the American flags lining the National Mall Thursday are personal. All 1,892 represent veterans lost to suicide this year.
Kris was nearly one of them seven years ago.
“I just felt like tomorrow wasn’t going to be better and there was no reason to go on,” he says.
Nick Cook faced a similar struggle when he got home from Baghdad.
“If it wasn’t for the support structure I had with my wife and kids I probably would have taken my own life,” Cook admits.
The Veterans Administration estimates 22 veterans die by suicide each day. That’s more than 8,000 a year. As Executive Director Suicide Prevention at Veterans Affairs, it’s Caitlin Thompson’s job to help vets struggling emotionally.
“We need to get our veterans into care-because what we know is that treatment works,” she says.
However, veterans storming the Hill this week complain they don’t have enough access to care and worry about getting penalized for seeking help.
“If we don’t do something about it now, and do something to reverse that trend, it will become a national shame if we don’t,” says Navy veteran David Dickerson.
Senator John Walsh is responding with new legislation to reduce the barriers to mental health care.
“We’ve waited too long to take on this action,” Senator Walsh says.
Walsh’s bill gives veterans more time to ask for care, streamlines the process and improves mental health education. Veterans are hoping the visual reminder of suicide’s toll they’ve placed on the National Mall inspire Congress to act.