“What we’re doing with Objective Zero is crowdsourcing peer support,” said Mercado. “The idea is that we’re trying to get ahead of those downward spirals into suicide by providing peer support as a pre-crisis service.”

Objective Zero was established in 2015. It released a mobile app in December of 2017 that instantly connects veterans-in-need to a community of fellow veterans, current service members and concerned citizens.

Mercado mentioned the recent spike in suicide rates as an alarming trend amongst the military.

“Early indications are that in 2020, suicide rates in the military are up over 2019 by 20%. In the U.S. army, suicide rates are up over 30%,” said Mercado. “It’s very concerning.”

In 2017, Mercado was named the Military Times Service Member of the Year for the U.S. Army in recognition for founding Objective Zero, a suicide prevention platform. He has served five tours overseas, three during the surges in Iraq and Afghanistan, and earned three Bronze Star Medals, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Joint Service Achievement Medal, 10 Army Achievement Medals and the NATO Medal.

Credit Hour is the University of South Dakota’s podcast highlighting the achievement, research and scholarship of its staff, students, alumni and faculty. Follow Credit Hour on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and www.usd.edu/podcast.

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