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Veterans living with post-traumatic stress disorder are at an increased risk of suicide, and COVID-19 puts them at an even higher risk.

"When unemployment is increased by 5%, there are potentially 550 more veteran suicides that could happen," said Dr. Iman Williams Christians, a psychologist and director of the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic in Virginia Beach.

The Cohen Veterans Network, which was a partner in establishing the clinic, found this statistic in a study it had completed along with the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute. The report also found that 20,000 additional veterans have developed substance use disorders during the pandemic. In a statement, CVN also said that depression rates are many times higher than the number of deaths by suicide.

Dr. Williams Christians said the pandemic increases anxiety, isolates people and adds economic hardship to the list of challenges veterans with PTSD may face.

The good news, she said, is that PTSD is treatable. One of the most important, and most difficult, steps is to diagnose this condition. She said it is the "scariest thing in the world" for people to accept the label of PTSD for their symptoms, but it is key to getting the condition under control.

Once the word is said, she added, "a beautiful thing happens where they gain their lives back, and their life is not all about PTSD. It can be about whatever they want it to be at that point."

The Cohen clinic offers telehealth options for veterans.

Anyone, including veterans, can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for help.