Veteran suicide rates are on the rise, and during this Suicide Prevention Month, a couple of local organizations are working to ensure they have access to life-changing resources.
"I think that does break down that stigma and that's a huge stigma with suicide with veterans is just they don't want to reach out," said Tim Reynolds, Elks Lodge Veterans Committee Chairman.
The Elks Lodge is partnering with Band of Brothers in Santa Maria to host stand-down events.
Veterans will have a chance to interact with one another and get easy access to veteran resources including K9 programs for service dogs, the Good Samaritan Hospital, the VA Combat Veterans Counseling, and other mental health resources.
"Actually physically see the resources and things that are there and talk to some people and shake hands and let them know that they're there so they don't have a wall if they're afraid to reach out," Reynolds said.
The events were made possible by a grant the Santa Maria Elks Lodge received through the community investment program.
"We saw a need during COVID when the local VA clinic was shut down and all our local veterans had nowhere to go," said Phil Daighton, Elks Lodge Secretary.
The $10,000 grant will allow the lodge to host three or four stand-down events for veterans from across the region.
"Only they know what they've been through, what they've done for our country, and so for them to be able to get together, interact, talk amongst themselves, it's important," Daighton said.
"They can reach out and have more resources if they're feeling... if they're headed down that road... and it lets them know that the community's behind them. We're behind them for sure and I know our community is too," Reynolds said.
The next stand-down event will take place at the Santa Maria Elks Lodge on September 28 from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. It is open to all veterans from anywhere in the state.