MILITARY MATTERS: Army Veterans And Politicians From Georgia Helping With Mental Health For Vets

Published: Oct. 16, 2023 at 4:27 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (WTVM) - On the heels of world mental health day, we’re getting personal stories of military veterans, who are at a 57 % higher risk of suicide than those who haven’t served. It’s the 2nd leading cause of death for vets under the age of 45.

Jarrad Turner – an Army veteran in the Atlanta area – has seen 11 people he served with die by suicide. Turner knows the darkness too. After 2 deployments to Iraq, he was medically retired when a grenade hit his guard tower.

“I felt lost, alone, unable to really articulate the things i was going through, incredibly dark days,” Turner said.

Recovery was slow. Surgeries to his shoulder, elbow, and jaw, turner said his body was torn apart by shrapnel, then there was the mental toll. He was on 3 pages of medications, including 5 drugs just to sleep.

“I was a shell of a man…a shell of the person that I had trained so hard to be, to be honest with you,” he said.

His body and mind eventually healed. Now, at the warrior alliance, he’s helping others do the same – connecting veterans to housing, schooling, and jobs. But getting mental health resources to veterans is slow – just getting a counselor can take 6-8 weeks.

“We should be able to get them qualified help within at least 72 hours, unfortunately we’re not doing that,” Turner added.

He says the VA and non-profits needs more counselors, clinicians, and psychologists. Georgia politicans say they’re committed.

In April, Governor Brian Kemp signed a bill into law – creating a 750,000 grant program to support mental health programs for military service members, veterans and their families.

Senator Jon Ossoff of Georgia also helped usher in a new bill to help GA veterans afford mental health and substance abuse treatment. He also co-sponsored another bill to cut through red tape – allowing mental health specialists to help active service members.

“There’s been a lot of promises, but the execution of those promises and the timeliness of the resources, so we can really use those resources the lives of our veterans unfortunately has been really slow, but that’s why we exist,” Senator Ossoff (D) said.

Turner said, as state and federal dollars slowly trickle down, the warrior alliance and other non-proifts are in overdrive. And he knows firsthand that lives depend on it.

“It’s just a fight. it’s a constant fight to get back to the person you were...we don’t have time to wait,” Turner said.