suicide

Kristen Christy poses with her husband Don in a 2005 photo. Don, an Air Force lieutenant colonel, died by suicide in 2008.
Kristen Christy

New federal laws seek to improve mental health care for veterans and their families. But advocates say it will take time for local communities to feel the effects.

Curley Bonds, the Chief Medical Officer for the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, joins other state and county officials at a 2019 Suicide Prevention Month event.
Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health

Some states and cities are trying to improve the quality of data on veteran suicide, which is often incomplete and years old.

Mark George (right), a chaplain at the Caldwell County Jail in Lockhart, Tx., shakes hands with VA clergy training instructor Larry Collins, while attendee Vernon Cooper looks on.
Carson Frame / American Homefront

The Department of Veterans Affairs is training clergy members around the country to look for signs of psychological disorders and other issues among veterans in their congregations.

Members of the 52nd Fighter Wing gather at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany for a one day stand down to discuss mental health issues.
Kyle Cope / U.S. Air Force

In response to a string of suicides in the Air Force, every base is holding a one day stand down, where airmen can learn and talk about mental health issues.

76 year old Army veteran Robert Neilson writes notes of encouragement to fellow veterans who have contemplated suicide. He's struggled with mental health issues since he left the Army in the 1960s.
Matt Bowler / KPBS

Veterans are about twice as likely as non-veterans to die by suicide. But the majority of those suicides are among veterans aged 55 or older -- whose military service was decades earlier.

The Department of Veterans Affairs National Call Center in Canandaigua, N.Y., pictured in this 2013 photo, is one of three operated by the VA.
Department of Veterans Affairs

The VA has opened more call centers and hired hundreds of additional responders after complaints that some callers experienced long hold times or were sent to voicemail.

Veterans and family members at Tampa's American Legion Post 5 participate in a special Memorial Day ceremony for troops who died by suicide.
Bobbie O'Brien / American Homefront

Memorial Day can be especially difficult for relatives of service members who died by suicide. They often feel stigmatized, even around other military families.

Eric Fleming served as an infantryman in the U.S. Army. He fought in the first Gulf War, and is still suffering ill effects from combat.
John Ismay/KPCC

Eric Fleming served as an infantryman in the U.S. Army. He fought in the first Gulf War, and is still suffering ill effects from combat. John Ismay/KPCC

Starting Wednesday morning, military veterans began walking back and forth across Pasadena's scenic Colorado Street Bridge. Their goal: raise public awareness about the fact that 20 vets kill themselves in the U.S. every day.

The Colorado Street Bridge is a tragic icon - over the years, so many people have leaped from it to their deaths that it's earned the nickname "The Suicide Bridge."

Veterans advocates, protesters, and even President Obama have cited the statistic that 22 veterans a day kill themselves. But the reality is complex, and the number can be misleading.