“I know that lonely, dark feeling,” said Chris Dorsey, an Iraq War veteran from Winder.
Standing on a corner in the downtown Gainesville square Wednesday afternoon, Dorsey joined others in raising awareness about suicide among military veterans.
The rally was organized by the Gainesville-based North Georgia Veterans Outreach Center.
Dorsey suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and said there was a moment in his life when he was lying on a bathroom floor with a pistol in his mouth.
He credits his young son for bringing him back from the brink of suicide.
But other veterans aren’t as fortunate.
Dorsey said three men he served with have taken their own lives in recent years.
Those at the rally Wednesday held signs drawing attention to a widely reported statistic that an average of 22 veterans commits suicide each day, or more than 8,000 a year.
The figure comes from a 2013 report by the Department of Veterans Affairs, but includes several caveats.
For example, the study only reviewed death certificates in 21 states, and also cautions about the difficulty in properly identifying who is a veteran.
While the study has its limitations, it does ring the alarm bell in several areas, including the growing number of suicides among veterans younger than 30, specifically those returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And Georgia has one of the higher rates of veteran suicide, according to the study, primarily because it has one of the largest veteran populations of any state.
A more recent study, published in the February issue of the Annals of Epidemiology, accounts for all veterans who served in active-duty units between 2001 and 2007, or 1,282,074 military service men and women.
The study reports that there were 1,868 suicides among this group, an annual rate of 29.5 per 100,000 veterans.
Among civilians of a similar demographic, these veterans are about 50 percent more likely to commit suicide, according to the study.
Dorsey is the founder of Vets 4 Kids, a nonprofit organization that teaches camping and survival skills to the children of deployed and fallen soldiers.
He wants veterans to know that they are not alone in their struggles.
And he’s getting help.
“We’re here to support veterans,” said Elizabeth Evans, a pastoral counselor in Gainesville who attended the rally.