Veteran Suicide Awareness month begins; Hampstead widow speaks out, asks veterans to seek help
HAMPSTEAD, NC (WWAY) — Nearly every day, up to 20 veterans will take their own life. Only 30 percent of them will have sought help through veteran resources.
One woman personally affected by this hopes her husband’s story can change that statistic as we enter Veteran Suicide Awareness Month.
Orion Mizrahi’s husband, Matthew Mizrahi was by all accounts a hero.
He served eight years in the military, touring Afghanistan. Later as a Wilmington police officer, he saved a little girl who was in cardiac arrest.
When Mizrahi came home from Afghanistan, it looked as if he had everything. He had a wife, three beautiful daughters, and a job with the Wilmington Police Department. But at home, he struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It took a lot for him to get help, because you know… there’s that stigma of you know, you’re Mr. Macho Man, you don’t admit weakness,” Orion explained.
According to Tony Vivaldi, a Vietnam veteran and founder of Save a Vet Now, Mizrahi was not alone.
“They’ve been trained to be strong, not to be weak,” Vivaldi explained. “To suck it up, to do what they can. That there are people depending on them.”
And though Mizrahi sought help for months, Orion said he began to think about killing himself.
“He had said to me, the only reason I haven’t done it is because I have too many mouths to feed.”
Orion made Mizrahi mental health appointments, working with him every step of the way. She believed he was in a better place until COVID caused his appointments to be cancelled and he began to use alcohol to numb himself.
In April, on the couple’s seven year anniversary, Mizrahi took his own life. Orion still hasn’t found the words to tell her children exactly what happened.
“I simply told them Daddy went to war and he came back and he was sick,” she said. “And he was in a lot of pain, and he just couldn’t take the pain anymore. And that he went to the hospital… and he’s not coming back.”
It’s a pattern that repeats itself time and again. According to Veteran Affairs, nearly 20 veterans commit suicide a day in the U.S.
Though there are resources for vets, Vivaldi believes we need to put more emphasis on prevention than awareness.
“There’s hope,” he said. “That asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but of strength and courage. And we’re not doing a good enough job with this.”
Now Orion has to stay strong for her three young daughters. She hopes her husband’s story will lead others to get help, but can’t help but keep missing what was and what could have been.
“Everything,” she said when asked what she’d miss. “He was the person I was supposed to grow old with.”
Vivaldi’s organization, Save a Vet Now partners with Coastal Horizons to provide professional medical treatment to veterans at no out of pocket cost.
Save a Vet Now will host an art show and fundraiser on the Battleship November 6, and are asking local artists to donate what they can for a good cause.