A combat veteran is nearing the end of his journey to run the entire Natchez Trace Parkway for suicide prevention.
Phil Parsons began the 444-mile trek in Nashville on September 20 and is set to reach the southern terminus in Natchez by the end of Saturday. So far, he has covered around 41 miles per day, and to him, it’s all worth it following his own battle with mental health.
“I’m a combat veteran, but I’ve also had my own issues with mental health and issues related to suicide,” Parsons said during a water break in Kosciusko. “As my story progressed, I have taken an undertaking to try to create some more awareness for other veterans that might be struggling and just kind of show them that suicide and mental health doesn’t have to dictate your life.”
Parsons, who had his outlook on life changed after he unsuccessfully tried to kill himself two years ago, is making the journey to raise both awareness and money for veterans battling mental health issues or suicidal thoughts.
In 2019, the Veterans Administration published a report that said 22 veterans per day were taking their own lives. New methodology from the Bravo Alpha Foundation showed that the actual rate of veterans killing themselves was 31.2 when you include all servicemembers regardless of status.
“I think everybody’s heard of ’22 a day,’ which is the normal statistic. I think it’s a lot higher than that, just depends on how you quantify or qualify veterans,” Parsons continued. “What it gets down to is that those of us who have been to combat are five times safer overseas than when returning home. So, I’d like to do a little part in trying to change that.”
Members of the U.S. Congress have also joined in support of Parsons, who is working to raise $31,200 for the Bravo Alpha Foundation. To donate or to keep up with Parsons’ journey, go to PhilRuns.com.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide or struggling with suicidal thoughts, help is available 24 hours a day through the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988. You are not alone.