SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Second Lady Karen Pence visited Hunter Army Airfield Wednesday to discuss mental health with military leaders, in honor of National Suicide Prevention Month.
The second lady said that for the first time, we’re having a national conversation about suicide in the military.
Her visit was meant to shine a light on the everyday struggles of those who serve.
“Some of the things you see, some of the things you do, you take home with you,” said Natasha Ryan, a safety officer with the 603rd Aviation Support Battalion at Hunter. “It can rest very heavily on some individuals.”
Military men and women are 1.5 times more likely to die by suicide than Americans who’ve never served. The second lady says their mental sacrifice deserves our attention.
“It’s our duty to come alongside and help you when you need it most,” she said, “it is our duty to ease the suffering you may endure as a result of your service to the United States.”
Pence met with Hunter Army Airfield’s Behavioral Health Team for a roundtable discussion on access to resources in a time when our country needs it most.
“You know, we live in challenging times right now, times like no other and it’s important now more than ever before to start those conversations about emotional well being and mental health,” said Pence.
The call to action became more real when Command Sgt. Major James McGuffy took the stage to share his struggle with mental health.
“One night I was laying in bed I had a bottle of Jameson in one hand and a loaded .45 in the other and I was mentally trying to convince myself it was easier if I just ended it all,” said McGuffy.
He was able to get the help he needed — a situation the second lady hopes will become more commonplace.
“Suicide is preventable,” she said, “so what can we do, we can start by talking more and not less.”
Mrs. Pence says promoting healthy minds in the military is a huge priority for the White House. Their ultimate goal is to drive suicide rates down and encourage more people to seek help.