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Death of Sgt. Elder Fernandes shines spotlight on military suicide

Posted at 9:18 PM, Aug 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-26 22:18:52-04

The investigation into the disappearance of Sgt. Elder Fernandes has shed a light into the mental struggles service members grapple with.

A national statistic says every day, 22 veterans die by suicide. However, that statistic was found pre-pandemic and is now expected to increase post-pandemic.

Veterans One Stop says veterans with mental disorders are feeling more isolated than ever before due to social distancing.

"They're not being heard or understood or listened to... nobody is caring about them," said Tina Tillert.

Tillert is a veteran who struggles with PTSD, but thanks to resources from Veterans One Stop, she's come full-circle and is now volunteering.

Veterans One Stop is a one stop shop where veterans, service members and their families can come in and receive anything from physical, medical to mental resources.

"You're never alone. There's always someone there to help you and there's always something to go to," said Veterans One Stop Assistant Peer Coordinator Nikita Roedler.

Among the resources, Veterans One Stop relies on military veteran peer support, where trained veterans meet with other vets in a safe, comfortable space.

"Having that bond or that relationship but maybe different experiences, it makes you feel not alone, not so much isolated," said Roedler.

Staff say over last few months, call volume has nearly doubled since the start of the pandemic.

Everyone will now need to schedule appointments by phone and wear a mask when they're inside the building.

Veterans One Stop is also relying on Virtual Mental Health First Aid, where people are trained virtually in identifying mental health symptoms such as addiction, bipolar, suicide, and more.