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Preventing suicide among veterans is new group's mission

Together With Hill Country Veterans formed in Kerrville to focus on reducing the suicide rate, which was 2.1 times higher than non-veteran adults in 2015.

KERRVILLE, Texas — Suicide is a public health concern increasingly impacting veterans, especially those living in rural communities. Now a new program out of Kerrville is offering support and strength for local veterans.

“Suicide, of course, is a major public health problem - that disproportionately impacts veterans living in rural communities. And it's also preventable,” Susan Becmer, executive director of Together with Hill Country Veterans, told KENS 5. "Preventing veterans suicide is the top priority of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs."

The VA Suicide Data Report of June 2018 revealed that 2015 suicide rates among U.S. veterans were 2.1 times higher than suicide rates among non-veteran adults.

Throughout September, which is Suicide Prevention Month, the group has been holding suicide prevention programs virtually on Fridays for not just veterans, but for families of veterans so they can be better informed and look for signs.

The last class is tomorrow, Sept. 25 from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. The focus is on what’s called “QPR” (Question, Persuade and Refer).

The group has adopted an eagle mascot, which as Becmer explains, is symbolic.

Credit: Together With Hill Country Veterans

"Sam was found abandoned in an empty office at the armory, currently the Hill Country Veterans Center (HCVC). There was a huge crack that went from the base to the head that was several inches wide," Becmer said. "I wanted to restore him because he had purpose."

Becmer found a resident woodcarver who relished the opportunity to work on Sam. Becmer said the result was transformative.

"Sam is refurbished and majestic," Becmer said. "The parallel is TWHCV seeks to find veterans at risk and, through community support, the veteran can restore their esteem/purpose and return refurbished and majestic."

TWHCV operates from an office at the Hill Country Veterans Center, located at 411 Meadowview Lane, in Kerrville. The office is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and may be reached by calling (830) 315-5012.

Future events are in the planning stages and will be announced on the organization's Facebook page. They will include outreach to veterans and veteran organizations, more suicide prevention training sessions, community awareness programs and production and distribution of printed materials.

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