VA, Ohio State Veteran community host 5K to raise mental health and suicide prevention awareness


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Participants of the REACH 5K run/walk gathered at Fred Beekman Park, located on the campus of The Ohio State University, to promote a caring campus culture in support of reducing mental health stigma. The event was hosted this past spring by Ohio State’s Peers Reaching Out, a student organization, and the Office of Military and Veteran Services. Additionally, students participating in Ohio State’s Veteran Community Advocates program assisted with coordinating the event.

“Suicide prevention is very important to me,” said Army Veteran Elena Camacho, a Veteran community advocate with the Ohio State University Suicide Prevention Program and a May 2018 graduate. “I want to support a culture of caring in our Veteran community and help people see that it is completely okay to not be okay. There is help and there is hope!”

REACH is a training program designed to help Ohio State’s community prevent suicide by teaching faculty, staff and students how to:

  • Recognize warning signs
  • Engage with empathy
  • Ask directly about suicide
  • Communicate hope
  • Help suicidal individuals to access care and treatment

The program trains peer participants to be REACH trainers each year. There are about 30 student trainers for 2018-2019. These trainers primarily work with their peer groups.

Further, the Veteran Community Advocate program is a scholarship program run jointly by the school’s Office of Military and Veteran Services and Student Life. The Office of Military and Veteran Services places students in various offices, colleges and campuses to function as two-way liaisons. They serve the military and Veteran student population by assisting with accessing services. They also help educate the faculty and staff about military and Veteran issues. As a result, this program works to increase engagement and raise awareness of military and Veteran student transition issues.

In addition to the advocate program, Ohio State has partnered with VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program through the VetSuccess on Campus that helps service members, Veterans, and eligible dependents succeed in education and beyond. The program provides on-campus benefits assistance and counseling.

VetSuccess provides a VA vocational rehabilitation counselor to each participating school.

Angela Abel is Ohio State’s VR&E counselor. Abel has met with and provided counseling services to many Ohio State student Veterans, including several student Veterans who are part of the advocate program.

“I was invited by one of the VCAs to participate in the REACH 5K,” said Abel. “I volunteered to show my support of the Ohio State student Veteran and military community.”

Nearly 2,000 service members, Veterans and their dependents are enrolled at Ohio State using their VA educational benefits as graduate and undergraduate students. Going from military to student life can be a significant change, and many Veterans face challenges that are far different from most traditional students.

“It was effective as a student Veteran to be involved in the REACH 5K,” said Air Force Veteran Don Caluya, who is a Veteran community advocate with the Office of Recreational Sport and an air transportation major. “I recently read an article on suicide and how it affects college kids and not just Veterans. It was impactful. Personally, I felt good knowing I was actively there, meeting participants, and seeing the big picture concept of connecting and increasing engagement between the general student body and Veteran students.”

“It was great to be a part of an event with so many people that want to help eliminate the stigma of suicide,” said Marine Corps Veteran James Moore with Ohio State’s College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences and a May 2018 graduate. “Anyone considering suicide needs to know there are people that want to help and have resources for you. Please seek help.”

This year’s REACH 5K run/walk had approximately 266 participants. The event also raised about $2,659 for the North Central Mental Health Services.


Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) helps with job training, employment accommodations, resume development, and job seeking skills coaching. Other services may be provided to assist Veterans in starting their own businesses or independent living services for those who are severely disabled and unable to work in traditional employment.

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