Local leaders shed light on suicide among veterans

The Congress members met with a veteran who served in Iraq

Sen. Ron Wyden and Congress members Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici pledged to shed more light on suicide among veterans. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Three Oregon Congress members visited the Veteran Affairs Medical Center Friday to bring attention to a major problem — veterans committing suicide at an alarming rate.

Sen. Ron Wyden and Congress members Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici met with veteran Erin Miller who now works as a crisis intervention specialist for Lines for Life.

Miller served in Iraq in 2005, but now dedicates her time to helping veterans who are contemplating suicide.

Erin Miller served in Iraq in 2005 and now helps veterans contemplating suicide. (KOIN)

“Spreading the word, we can definitely help, I believe,” Miller said.

She shared her experiences with the senator and Congress members — who visited the hospital to learn more about how they can tackle the problem.

“We all have a role to stop this epidemic of veteran suicide, we lose almost one veteran an hour in this country,” Rep. Blumenauer said.

The numbers are worse in the Western region, and in Oregon and Washington — we lose a veteran statistically every day to suicide.

Rep. Bonamici said, “We’re here today to listen, to take these ideas to Washington DC and make sure we are truly addressing the needs.”

Among those needs include health and mental healthcare, housing and employment. Each congressperson said they think legislators on both sides of the aisle will want to help.

“We don’t think there is anything partisan about getting better services to the vets,” Sen. Wyden said.

According to Miller, one of the most important ways to help is to keep bringing awareness to the issue.

“The greatest need is for veterans to not feel isolated,” Miller said. “I feel like the word is getting there, but we just need more eyes on it.”