Finding Hope


#FINDINGHOPE: President Trump's task force could impact Idaho veterans' rate of suicide

One expert is optimistic about federal funding.
Posted at 3:28 PM, May 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-07 11:59:31-04

BOISE, Idaho — The topic of veteran suicide has been in national headlines lately with the announcement of President Trump's executive order in March, which initiated a task force aimed at ending the national tragedy of veteran suicide.

6 On Your Side spoke to an expert at Boise Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center about what the task force could mean for Idaho veterans.

Twenty veterans die by suicide per day nationally, according to Mary Pierce, Suicide Prevention Coordinator at Boise VA. The average citizen suicide rate for the nation is 12 citizens per day.

"By nature of their training, military and service members are trained to be fearless in life-threatening situations. This doesn't make one suicidal, but when someone becomes suicidal, their capacity to be fearless about death is a much shorter bridge to cross," said Pierce

The task force vows to design and propose to Congress a program for making grants to local communities, like those in Idaho.

"We're going to definitely be one of the first to put in for these grants," said Pierce.

Along with running a program at the Boise VA that provides care for veterans who have had suicide attempts, Pierce has been an appointed member of the Idaho Council on Suicide Prevention since 2010.

"The President's executive order is definitely welcome because I think the state of Idaho can use as much money as possible to put our state plan into action," said Pierce.

The council's plan? Not a far cry from what's stated in the task force: community engagement.

"Because the way we attack suicide here in Boise might be different than the way it's done in Riggins," said Pierce.

She said they aim to put collaboratives in all seven of Idaho's regions in a effort to increase communication.

"We're hoping that we can see more progress and making more connections on a local level," said Pierce.

If, or when, Congress passes the President's grants program, Idaho's council can then apply for federal money that could help Idaho's at-risk veterans find recovery and hope.

And in the meantime, "We're going to keep looking for other grants in other areas, and we're going to keep moving our plan forward," said Pierce.

Are you or someone you know feeling anxious, alone or having thoughts of suicide? Confidential help is available 24/7. For the Veterans Crisis Line, dial 1-800-273-8255. For the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline, text or call 1-208-398-4357.