Families of Conn. vets celebrate passage of suicide-prevention bill

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Joanna Eldridge summed up the mood in the Hartford Legislative Office Building as the families of three deceased Connecticut war veterans joined Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) Friday.

“There is a lot of sadness in all of us, but there’s a lot of hope too,” said Eldridge. “We just want to be able to see other veterans get the help they need and deserve, and this is a definitely a step in the right direction.”

Eldridge lost her husband Justin Eldridge to suicide in 2013. She’s now hopeful that other veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder will get the help they need.

“I know had this been in place there would definitely have been a better possibility for my husband to have survived,” said Eldridge.

Blumenthal called the families together to celebrate passage of the “Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention” bill. It’s focus is to provide more access to mental health services for those who survived the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, only to succumb to the invisible wounds of post-traumatic stress disorder after returning home.

“We need to continue to de-stigmatize these wounds, and continue to provide support to these veterans who come home, and to our families as well,” said Cindy Dubuque, whose sister, Lisa Silberstein, also committed suicide.

Dubuque still wears Lisa’s dog tags as a reminder of the fight she now wages. Senator Blumenthal says 22 veterans commit suicide everyday, and that 30-percent of combat vets suffer from PTSD or traumatic brain injury.

“I know Lisa would be happy today,” said Dubuque “And I am grateful, though saddened that it has taken so much time.”

Blumenthal’s bill failed to pass the Senate last year. Although it received unanimous support this week, there’s still a long way to go.

“There is much more to be done in providing more psychiatrists and mental health professionals to provide comprehensive treatment, more access by veterans, more education and outreach to families,” said Blumenthal.

The family of David “Rick” Findley was also on hand at the event.

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