Oshkosh police to issue veterans challenge coins to raise suicide awareness

The Oshkosh Police Department will begin handing out challenge coins to veterans to hep raise awareness on veteran suicide, November 14, 2017. (WLUK)

OSHKOSH (WLUK) -- The Oshkosh Police Department is taking a step towards helping reduce the number of suicides by veterans.

On Tuesday, the department received challenge coins to hand out.

Challenge coins are often used in the military as a symbol of brotherhood.

The Oshkosh Police Department, partnering with the Fox Valley-based Center for Suicide Awareness, received a shipment of coins that their officers will now be handing out to vets.

At the very least, the coins are a way of saying, 'thanks for your service.'

At the other end of the spectrum, it could be a life-saver, with information to contact someone who can listen, 24-7.

"What we're hoping to accomplish is getting veterans to reach out for help when needed. To lessen the potential of any type of suicide among our veteran group," said Brian Schuldes of the Oshkosh Police Department.

About 50 other police departments in Wisconsin are also handing out these challenge coins.

The US Department of Veterans Affairs describes the depth and breadth of this study as unprecedented looking at the last 35 years nationwide. That included 55 million records reviewed and the determination that the rate of veterans suicide is more than twice the overall national rate.

Focusing on the most recent data in 2014, an average of 20 veterans killed themselves each day.

Of those, on average six had received VA services some time in the previous two years.

In Wisconsin, the report says 133 veterans died by suicide in 2014, among the 7,300 nationwide.

Here's how it broke down by age group:

  • Ages 18-34: 17 suicides
  • Ages 35-54: 38 suicides
  • Ages 55-74: 55 suicides
  • Ages 75 or older: 23 suicides
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