UNSPOKEN: How Hurricane Michael impacted veterans

Local News

BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — According to the Center for Disease Control, suicide rates are on the rise across the country’s entire population.

The Department of Veterans Affairs states 20 veterans commit suicide daily and many of those cases are connected to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Experiencing Hurricane Michael could’ve also triggered a veterans’ PTSD or caused them to develop it.

Bay County Veteran’s Service Officer, John Deegins said, “Let’s take a combat veteran and they have PTSD from some experience in combat. They could also develop PTSD due to the storm.”

He says anything could trigger the PTSD including a major thunderstorm, the smell of a pine tree or even just being in hurricane season.

“It really doesn’t go away and it may be dormant for years and then all of a sudden, something would trigger it and it comes right back,” Deegins said.

Deegins says after the storm, their office has been even busier in helping veterans and their families cope with the devastation.

He says they work along many different agencies in the county to bring the resources and counseling anyone needs, but the best thing to do is stay busy.

“Keep your mind occupied and get exercise. That helps a lot. Idle minds and idle hands, you start to think about what has happened and start to dwell on that, you might have a problem,” Deegins said.

Deegins says if anyone needs immediate help, the Veterans Crisis Hotline is always available. The number for that is 1-800-273-8255 and press 1.

More resources for veterans throughout the panhandle are listed below.

Bay County Veterans Services
840 W 11th St
(850)248-8280
Open: Mon – Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Bay County Veteran Center
3109 Minnesota Avenue, Suite 101
Panama City, Fl 32405
(850)522-6102
Open: Mon- Thurs. 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Friday 7 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Saturday (1st Sat. of the month) 8:30 a.m. – 7 p.m.
For assistance after hours, weekends, and holidays call: 1-877-WAR-VETS (1-877-927-8387)

VA Mental Health PCB Outpatient Clinic West
140 Richard Jackson Boulevard
Panama City Beach, Fl 32407
(850)636-7000
Open: Mon – Fri 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Fleet and Family Support Center
Naval Support Activity Panama City
Center is open to active duty, reserves on active duty, retired military, and spouses. 
(850)235-5800

Washington County Veteran’s Services
1331 South Blvd
Chipley, Fl 32428
(850)638-6140
Hours: Mon – Thurs 7:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Franklin County Veteran’s Services
33 Market Street, Room 103
Apalachicola, Fl 32320
(850)653-8096
Hours: Mon – Fri 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. (EST)

Gulf County Veteran’s Service
1000 Cecil G. Costin St. Blvd, Room 311
Port St. Joe, Fl
(850)229-6125
Hours: 7 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. (EST)
Email:  vetservices@gulfcounty-fl.gov

Jackson County Veteran’s Services
2851 Jefferson St
Marianna, Fl 32448
(850)718-5620
Hours: Mon -Fri 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Walton County Veteran’s Services
47 North 6th Street
DeFuniak Springs, Fl 32435
(850)892-8140
Hours: Mon – Thurs 7 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Life Management Center
525 East 15th Street
Panama City, Fl 32405
(850)522-4485 (for Crisis Hotline, press 5)
https://lmccares.org/contact/

Emerald Coast Behavioral Hospital
1940 Harrison Ave
Panama City, Fl 32405
(850)763-0017
Licensed mental health professionals are available 24/7

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