As COVID-19 begins to rapidly affect the United States, we know it impacts every single one of you in many ways. We also know that it will have a dramatic impact on the most vulnerable populations – the aged, homeless, and those with limited access to healthcare. These populations, and many others, are distinctly represented in the community of veterans and service members we have dedicated our lives to serving.
The COVID-19 outbreak is a stressor for everyone, and I want to tell you how we are responding to it, and some simple ways you can help.
What We Expect To Happen
The fact is, our veteran clients will be disproportionately affected by the virus. Roughly fifty percent of the veterans we serve are homeless or housing unstable. Due to their circumstances, they have little or no access to sanitation, and many have limited access to healthcare, making them highly susceptible to COVID-19.
The pandemic only increases anxiety, stress, and fear in those already at-risk for suicide. Social isolation is necessary to flatten the curve, but it will be counter-productive to those struggling with depression and thoughts of self-harm.
With the VA announcing its first COVID-related veteran death on Monday, the necessity of our support services across the military community will likely continue to grow. We are already seeing other veteran serving organizations and nonprofits cancel services due to government mandates and safety concerns. We are filling the gap left by other providers who must shut down some or all of their services.
What We’re Doing
Please rest assured, we’re not going anywhere. If you are a veteran in need, we are 100% here for you. The strength of our service model is that we can successfully provide veterans with video and phone-based help proven to reduce suicide risks quickly.
As for our team, we’re working remotely and leaning in during this time of crisis. As an organization, we are being extremely prudent with resources. We have eliminated all non-essential travel and aren’t taking any new contracts unless they help us save lives.
How You Can Help
In the coming weeks and months, on behalf of America’s veterans, we will urgently need your help.
First, if you know a veteran, or know of a veteran in your neighborhood, the social distancing and isolation that is necessary right now may cause them to be even more isolated. Loneliness is one of the worst things that can happen to a person struggling with depression or thoughts of self-harm. Please reach out however you can safely do so. Be friendly. Ask what they’re doing to keep busy, or what they’re watching on Netflix. It doesn’t matter what you talk about as long as you connect.
Second, the economic effects of the global pandemic will ripple down and hit our clients especially hard. We’re already seeing an uptick in demand for the services we provide. We expect a downturn in donations, revenue shortfalls, and drops in new donor recruitment. For a while, gathering for fundraising events will not be possible.
As always, we are not government funded. We are relying on private donations from people like you to be able to help America’s veterans weather this storm along with the rest of us. If you can, please donate directly to help us continue to provide this critical support.
We Will Get Through This
Many of us here at Stop Soldier Suicide are veterans. We know first-hand how incredibly strong and resilient Americans are in times of crisis.
I encourage each of you to take care of your mental health. Spend extra time outside. Stay connected to your friends, loved ones, and community through technology. Do something simple to help others or boost morale.
We are all in this together, and I know that together we will come through this trying time.
20-year Air Force Veteran and Stop Soldier Suicide CEO