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Local first responder will walk 22 miles on Sunday to raise funds for veteran suicide awareness

A photo of a person holding an American flag in the sun, standing on some grass next to a covered bridge.
Tiffany Stanley
Former police officer and Army veteran Chase Stanley will walk 22 miles on Sunday. He'll trek some parts of the route solo and invites community members to join him. The walk on Sunday, Sept. 11 is meant to raise awareness around first-responder and veteran suicide prevention. During the last leg of the walk, Stanley asks veterans to join him.

Chase Stanley from Newfane will walk 22 miles Sunday, Sept. 11 to raise money for veteran's services.

Advocacy groups have for years been raising the alarm over the high number of veteran's who die by suicide, and many have adopted the number 22 as a rallying cry to take action. That's based on a 2013 report from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that found from from 1999 to 2010, roughly 22 veterans were dying by suicide per day, or one every 65 minutes.

While that number appears to have decreased slightly — the agency reports in 2019, on average, about 17 veterans died by suicide per day — veteran suicide-related deaths are increasing at a greater rate than that of the general U.S. population.

Statistics also show that veterans who enlisted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks are at higher risk of dying by suicide.

Vermont Public's Mary Engisch spoke to Chase Stanley about his walk and the services he hopes this fundraiser can provide for local vets and first responders. Their conversation below has been edited for clarity.

Mary Engisch: Chase, this 22-mile walk is intended to raise money for services specifically for veterans, for first responders, funding for things like proper mental health care. And I know you've spoken in the past about how you've struggled at times during your military and law enforcement careers. Reaching out for health care and being vulnerable, asking for help, that's difficult for some. Can you talk more about that?

Chase Stanley: Absolutely. There's a stigma associated with it, too. And especially in certain lines work, you know, being a soldier, being a police officer, you're expected to be tough and to be able to push through these things.

What a lot of people don't realize if you have an interaction with a paramedic, or a firefighter or a police officer or soldier, you know, you're having a bad day. You don't really call these people if you're having a good day.

So that one interaction you're having could be on the worst day of your life. But with these different first responders, and the soldiers and sailors and service members, they see this multiple times a day.

So then it comes to the point where you think, "OK, well, this is bothering me. I'm having anxiety about it. I'm having mental distress over it. What's the next step? Where do I go?" And there are organizations out there, but in my history and researching, there's not a vast variety of different types of resources. And that's what I'm trying to push for, is finding what works for that individual.

"So then it comes to the point where you think, 'OK, well, this is bothering me. I'm having anxiety about it. I'm having mental distress over it. What's the next step? Where do I go?' And there are organizations out there, but in my history and researching, there's not a vast variety of different types of resources. And that's what I'm trying to push for, is finding what works for that individual."
Chase Stanley

Are there any mental health care resources you wish you had access to earlier in your life?

They're out there. I mean, to say I didn't have access to them wouldn't be a fair statement, especially working with the military and working with the Brattleboro Police Department. We were offered services constantly. I mean, there was fliers around. We had opportunities.

You know, I've said it before, I'm not a guy that particularly likes to sit around and just chat about my feelings. I would rather go on a hike with a group and just talk as we're walking, or go on a motorcycle ride or do a weekend camping trip.

It's just finding the right tool for the right person.

A poster with an American flag emblem invites people to an Elks BPOE 1499 Breakfast.
Chase Stanley, Courtesy
Community members can walk with Chase Stanley on Sunday, Sept. 11, as he raises awareness and funds for veteran suicide prevention. The walk will begin and end at the Elks Lodge. They will provide a breakfast in the morning and barbecue at the end of the 22-mile walk.

And this isn't your first long walk. When did you begin these treks?

So I started this last year on Sept. 11. Last year, I had just left law enforcement, which was my passion, it was my dream job. And I was felt like I was doing a good job. And I had the community support as a police officer.

But again, just kind of the weight of the world bore down on me, and I wasn't in a place where I felt I could do the job to the standard I set for myself. So I decided to step away from it.

And I picked up another job. I still work for the Town of Brattleboro with public works. This is my first time in my entire life where I've worked a Monday to Friday, 9-5 type job, where I wasn't in some type of service.

I was looking for a way to say, "Alright, how can I stay involved? How can I help prevent people from getting in the same position that I was in? How can we get involved earlier in officers or firefighters careers that help them from deteriorating the way that I did?"

OK Chase, let me ask you about the walk tomorrow, it starts at the Elks Lodge. But tell us a little bit more about where you're going. And can folks join you along the way?

Absolutely, they can! So this year, I partnered up with the Brattleboro Elks Lodge Post 1499. So I'm leaving and ending back at the Elks Lodge, and they are going to be doing a breakfast in the morning time. That's open to the public if they want to come in.

And then I'm gonna go over to the high school and just kind of circle the track for a few hours. Anybody of any skill level physical fitness level ability or age can join me on a nice flat, round surface and join me for as long or as short as they want to.

From the Elks to Veterans' Memorial Bridge, which is on Putney Road, that's going to be the last leg of it. And for that I'm asking just veterans and first responders to join me for that part, to kind of kind of conclude it as a group. You know, that's what it's about, is us being there for each other.

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, there is help:

Vermont Public will air a program called "Facing Suicide" on Tuesday, Sept. 13 at 9 p.m. on PBS. The program will explore the powerful stories of those impacted by suicide — one of America's most urgent health crises — and journey to the front lines of research with scientists whose work is leading to better prevention and treatment.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or tweet us @vermontpublic.

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
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