With Veterans Day coming up on Sunday, advocates for veterans in the Garden State are offering assistance.

John Dorrity, director of the Ocean County Veterans Service Bureau, said the most recent statistics available indicate 67 veterans took their own lives in 2016, down slightly from the previous year. (His report did not have a specific number, but he said it was slightly lower in 2016.)

“There are many that we don’t know of," he said, comparing it counting the homeless population.

“The largest number are between the age of 55 and 74, which primarily would be around Vietnam-era veterans.”

Dorrity said he’s noticed similar patterns of behavior in younger and older veterans.

“Quite often, readjustment is an extremely difficult thing for any of us who have served in combat," he said.

The state of New Jersey will pay for up to two years of counseling for post traumatic stress disorder, which he says is important because “my PTSD not only affects me, it affects my wife, my children, my grandchildren.”

He said veterans who are prone to suicide frequently struggle with inner demons.

“Many of these people just are so disconnected, so disenfranchised.”

Dorrity said he carries a suicide note from a veteran, a man who expressed thanks for the efforts that had been made on his behalf.

“But he just couldn’t go on because he felt horrible about some of the things he had done," Dorrity said.

Amanda Richter, a peer support specialist with the Vet to Vet Helpline, said it’s a free confidential service completely staffed by veterans for veterans and members of their family.

“We cover issues all from A to Z, financial, legal assistance, employment resources, housing assistance," she said.

The 24-7 Helpline also gets calls from veterans in crisis who are considering taking their own lives.

“We do have clinicians who are here 24-7 so we are capable of fielding those type of calls.”

Richter, who served in the Air National Guard, said many veterans who served in a combat situation struggle with PTSD or some other mental health issue and it stops them from living productively.

“They get caught up or they feel like they’re unable to talk to someone or they don’t want to be judged," she said. "There’s such a stigma with mental health but we are here to help. We want them to know that help is available with whatever they’re going through."

The Vet to Vet Helpline is coordinated by Rutgers University Behavioral Heath Care. The number is 866-838-7654.

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