JACKSONVILLE, Fla. ( Sept. 5, 2023) – Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) is spotlighting the alarming prevalence of suicidal thoughts among veterans who are struggling economically. The findings underscore the importance of resources that help military veterans become self-sufficient and provide for themselves and their families.
“Addressing my PTSD was hard enough, but worrying about how to put food on the table next week for my family left me thinking, ‘Why am I doing this?’ I am thankful to Wounded Warrior Project for getting behind me and investing in my recovery,” said Phil Krabbe, a former Marine who nearly completed suicide in 2020 but found support from WWP through peer connections and help with his VA benefits.
Among veterans registered with Wounded Warrior Project®, those experiencing financial strain are more likely to have suicidal thoughts in the past year than WWP warriors who are not experiencing financial strain. This is concerning, given the non-profit's Annual Warrior Survey notes that 64% of WWP warriors had struggled to make ends meet at some point in the last 12 months.
U.S. Marine vet Phil Krabbe stands by the grave of fellow warrior Ray Pizzaro, his friend and Peer Support Group leader at Wounded Warrior Project® who helped him survive his suicide attempt and connect with resources for recovery. Today, Phil carries on his friend's legacy, volunteering through Wounded Warrrior Project to mentor fellow veterans so they, too, can have the courage to stay alive.
U.S. Marine vet Phil Krabbe survived a suicide attempt thanks to a friend from Wounded Warrior Project®. Financial struggles had contributed to his sense of helplessness. “The first year of my recovery was the hardest,” Phil says. “Getting off drugs was one aspect of what I was fighting. And then to have to worry about where my next meal was coming from or how I was going to put food on the table for the next week for my family was another aspect. There were times when I thought, ‘Why am I doing this?’" Phil stayed the course, and worked with the WWP Benefits Service team to get the proper VA disability rating. This created stability to focus on his recovery and participate in programs like Warrior Care Network®. “It changed my life drastically,” says Phil.
Household financial stability is one of the Center for Disease Control's recommended resources for suicide prevention. Wounded Warrior Project® offers financial education, career readiness training, and access to leading national employers to post-9/11 veterans with visible or invisible wounds. Family members are also eligible to take part in these programs.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends "health connections" as a suicide prevention measure. In 2022, 97% of veterans engaging in Wounded Warrior Project's Alumni Program local and virtual events said they felt they had people they could depend on. These social and support events are also available for family members and those caring for veterans.
“I was about to pull the trigger, but my eyes caught the word ‘courage’ tattooed on my hand. I had gotten it to honor Ray Pizarro, a fellow warrior who had coached me on what to do if suicidal thoughts crept in. I had promised him I’d have the courage to survive,” said U.S. Marine veteran Phil Krabbe, who put down the gun and went on to receive support from Wounded Warrior Project® and now shared his suicide story openly to combat stigma and shame other veterans feel discussing their suicidal thoughts.
Financial Insecurity and Suicidal Thoughts
Each year, WWP conducts a survey of the injured, ill, and wounded veterans currently registered with the organization. According to the 2022 Annual Warrior Survey*:
How to Prevent Veteran Suicide: Phil’s Story
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists “strengthened economic support” as a suicide prevention resource, but it’s not the only ingredient. It also lists “healthy connections,” like the friend Phil made at his first WWP event.
“I was about to pull the trigger, but my eyes caught the word ‘courage’ tattooed on my hand. I had gotten it to honor Ray Pizarro, a fellow warrior who had coached me on what to do if suicidal thoughts crept in. I had promised him I’d have the courage to survive,” said Phil, who put down the gun and drove to a hospital.
Phil achieved economic stability by seeking help from WWP with his VA benefits. WWP also provides financial education, career readiness training, and access to leading national employers.
“Money alone is often not enough to address veterans’ psychological needs,” explained Erin Fletcher, Psy.D., WWP director of Warrior Care Network®. “They want purpose and camaraderie, and many seek a new and meaningful career post-military service. WWP helps with each of these, knowing they can help protect against suicidal thoughts.”
Phil’s sense of purpose became clear: carry on the legacy of the man who saved his life. Ray passed away, but Phil has followed in his footsteps to become a peer leader. He shares his suicide story so others will have the courage to survive.
For more information on Wounded Warrior Project and its efforts to address veteran suicide and mental health, visit woundedwarriorproject.org/preventsuicide.
Contact: — Kaitlin Fohlin, Public Relations, [email protected], 904.776.7169.
*Survey was conducted between June 15 and Aug. 24, 2022.
About Wounded Warrior Project
Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers — helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more.