ABQ VA Plans Inaugural Suicide Prevention Motorcycle Ride

By Circe Olson Woessner

Daily, roughly 20 Veterans, active-duty servicemembers and members of the National Guard and Reserve commit suicide nationwide, and of those men and women, 14 had not received care at a VA.  In New Mexico, the Veteran suicide rate is roughly one every 4 days. About 4 out of 5 are not enrolled with VA. The national suicide rates for male Veterans are about 20% higher than for civilians; for women Veterans, the suicide rate is about twice the rates of civilian women. Veterans (men and women) account for approximately 18% of the suicide deaths in this country and comprise about 14% of the adult population.

A group of VA Staff and community volunteers are working together to change those odds. They’re doing it in an unlikely way: they’ll participate in a  S.A.V.E. Veteransmotorcycle event. “S.AV.E.” is a mnemonic from the VA’s Suicide prevention program and stands for:

S–Signs and symptoms

A – Ask “are you thinking of killing yourself today?”

V – Validate feelings

E – Encourage treatment

This years’ New Mexico ride will take approximately 100 motorcyclists from Albuquerque through Tijeras, Espanola, and Taos, around the “Enchanted Circle,” and end in Angel Fire. At each stop, information on VA enrollment and suicide prevention information will be available to both riders and members of the local community. The American Legion Riders Chapter 22 is coordinating the route.

“Suicide is something, sadly, I have personally experienced: a high school friend committed suicide, and when I was in my early 20s, a good friend took his own life,” said RickyPete, State Road Captain for the American Legion Riders, Chapter 22.

Suicide has also impacted the Legion Riders chapter directly. Their chaplain, a veteran, also committed suicide.

RickyPete remembers, “She always had something hopeful to say. Her prayers always came from her heart. She comforted our riders who were going through hard times and always had a kind word for us. She was always so helpful on the outside, and little did we realize, that she was trying to face her own demons by herself. When we learned of her suicide, it was then that I wanted to get involved, so that maybe I could help just one veteran– just one person–educating and supporting everyone involved in this difficult issue.”

The ride will be on Saturday, October 13, starting at the Albuquerque VA Medical Center with kickstands up at 9:00 am. Stops along the ride will be at the Museum of the American Military Family in Tijeras, the Veterans Memorial in Espanola, Taos CBOC, and gas stations located along the route. There will be a remembrance service on Sunday morning at the Angel Fire Memorial.

For more information/questions about the Ride, volunteer opportunities, or to  donate, please contact Christina Camacho at (505) 265-1711 x 3056.




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