Campaign aims to stop veteran suicide epidemic

22 veterans commit suicide in America every day, studies show

Courtesy of K9s For Warriors

Shari Duval, president of K9S For Warriors, joins her staff to challenge others to participate in the STOP22 campaign.

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. - K9s For Warriors has initiated a campaign to raise awareness of what it calls a veteran suicide epidemic in the United States.

"Today, tomorrow, the day after that, 22 veterans will commit suicide in America," said Shari Duval, president of K9S For Warriors. "This sobering fact can't be ignored and we are asking for your help."

The campaign, "STOP22," calls on participants to get creative in sharing the message through Facebook posts, Tweets or Instagram posts using the number 22. Participants can also share photos on K9s For Warrors' website www.STOP22.org.

On Monday, Timothy Lee Anderson, a Minnesota State University student, died after shooting himself at the campus library that afternoon. He was identified as a 27-year-old philosophy major. The Mankato Free Press reported he was also a veteran of the war in Iraq.

K9s For Warriors provides service dogs to post-9/11 veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, traumatic brain injury and/or military sexual trauma at no charge to the veteran, giving rescue dogs and military heroes a new leash on life. The organization claims a 100 percent success rate to date in preventing soldier suicide.

"I went to grab my pistol and before my hand even touched it, my service dog started barking non-stop, which is not like him," a K9s For Warriors graduate said. "He was jumping in my face and wrapping his head around the arm I was going to grab the gun with. When I finally pulled away, he stopped barking and just stared at me."

K9s For Warriors said it applauds Congress for passing the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act. The bill, which is awaiting the president's final approval, is named for Clay Hunt, a Marine Purple Heart-winner who committed suicide in 2011. The law would create a comprehensive outreach program to address veterans' mental health and provide financial incentives to psychiatric doctors who work with veterans, according to TIME magazine.

For more information about STOP22 or K9s For Warriors, call 904.686.1956 or visit www.STOP22.org.

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