American Legion posts host ‘Be the One’ seminar to teach signs of mental health issues

American Legion posts host ‘Be the One’ seminar to teach signs of mental health issues
Published: Mar. 23, 2023 at 8:37 AM EDT|Updated: Mar. 23, 2023 at 11:01 PM EDT
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SHALLOTTE, N.C. (WECT) - Addiction, depression and PTSD are some issues that veterans may deal with after their service.

American Legion posts around the country teamed up for the “Be the One” campaign to assist veterans who may find themselves battling mental health issues.

“Be The One” is an initiative to encourage American Legion family members, veterans, service members and others to take action when they believe a veteran needs help.

American Legion Post 68 in Leland partnered with Post 550 in Shallotte for a seminar that provided resources for anyone with mental health issues, specifically suicidal thoughts.

In 2020, there were about 6,000 veteran suicides in the country, 200 of which occurred in North Carolina.

Veterans Affairs data from 2020 indicates that approximately 16.8 veterans die by suicide every day.

That’s why groups like the American Legion are leading a nationwide effort to reduce the number and encourage others to “Be the One” to take a stand.

“One of the important things that will be shown in this seminar are the signs of someone that may be on the edge and if you can recognize the signs of danger, you can help them,” said Carl Votik, post commander at American Legion Post 550.

John Hacker, the commander at American Legion Post 68, says it’s past time to take a stand.

“The American Legion is trying to make awareness to the community about the issue and what they can do to help raise awareness and prevention of veteran suicide,” Hacker said. “We just want to raise awareness. A lot of people I talked to aren’t aware that we’re losing 17 to 20 veterans a day. And recently we’ve discovered more women veterans, and so that people aren’t aware of. So it’s making them aware of what’s going on.”

He served in the Vietnam War and had a friend come to him who was struggling with his mental health. Days later his friend took his life, and ever since, Hacker hasn’t given up on trying to save others.

“He showed up at my house on his way home, he was from New Jersey. He was on his way back home and he just didn’t know what to do. The advice I gave him, today it probably would have been shameful. But in those days, we didn’t care. We didn’t want anybody to know what we were doing. When I found out he committed suicide, I was devastated,” said Hacker.

If you or anyone you know needs assistance, there’s a 24/7 veteran crisis hotline available. The phone number is 988, then press the number 1. You can find more information on the Veterans Crisis Line website.