In case you didn’t know, September is “Suicide Prevention Month,” and the Department of Veterans Affairs is mobilizing people and organizations nationwide to support Veterans in crisis and spread the word about VA mental health services.
I’ll get into the details in just a moment, but first let me just state that to proclaim a specific month “Suicide Prevention Month” is revealing.To some this act may highlight the VA’s commitment to preventing suicide (which is good), but it also calls attention to the fact that the attention the VA has historically given to this issue just isn’t working…the numbers continue to climb. So, to head off a PR nightmare, someone back at VA decided to put a stake in the ground and “show” that the VA really is committed…after all, they even assigned a whole month to the issue to show their commitment.
Some of us look at outcomes as opposed to throughputs – if the numbers continue to climb, something isn’t working. But I digress.
According to the VA press release, “Throughout the month, VA suicide prevention coordinators at all 151 VA medical centers will organize community events, host health fairs, lead training sessions and work with VA Voluntary Service to improve Veterans’ lives. VA is also launching a new Suicide Prevention Month public service announcement, “Talking About It Matters” nationwide in September.”
“VA’s highest priority is the mental health and well-being of the brave men and women who have served our Nation. Even one suicide is one too many,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. “va is a leader in providing high-quality mental health care that improves and saves Veterans’ lives. We know that treatment works, and there is hope for Veterans who seek mental health care.”
For the record, I admire the commitment and service of General Shinseki. He is a true patriot and he is committed to bettering the service to our Veterans and their families. I believe the heart behind his words…I just don’t believe he’s tried to navigate the system. It is painful.
VA is calling on supporters to educate their networks to recognize suicide warning signs and encourage veterans in crisis to call the Veterans Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255 and Press 1), chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat or text to 838255 – even if they are not registered with VA or enrolled in VA health care. All Veterans Crisis Line resources are optimized for mobile devices.
Bottom line: I am in total agreement with Secretary Shinseki – one suicide is one too many. Having gone through several trainings specific to suicide intervention, I’ve learned that getting someone to identify mission and purpose in their life is critical…simply put, Action Plan and Support Network.Which one will you help a veteran with should the need arise?
Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, and president of Edmonds-based Operation Military Family, is a guest writer for several national publications, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog. He is also a popular keynote and workshop speaker who reaches thousands of service members and their families every year through workshops and seminars that include “How to Battle-Ready Your Relationship” or “What Your Mother-in-Law Didn’t Tell You.” He received the 2010 Outstanding Patriotic Service Award from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.