Secretary Robert Wilkie’s message for Suicide Prevention Month




Hello, I’m Robert Wilkie, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

I’m blessed with the opportunity to serve our nation’s 20 million Veterans. Until recently, I was also honored to serve more than 1.4 million dedicated service members, and their families, at the Department of Defense.

Service members and Veterans who have defended our freedom have earned our enduring gratitude. They should have the opportunity to live meaningful, productive lives, in the same freedom and peace that their service and sacrifices made possible for so many other Americans.

Unfortunately, the cost of defending freedom can be tragically high. On average, 20 American Veterans die by suicide each day. Of those, 14 do not seek health care within our VA.

VA is committed to delivering the highest quality care to Veterans, providing some with access to specialized innovative care, that may be unavailable in the private sector. And more and more, Veterans are receiving care through VA.

Ultimately, whether Veterans choose VA, or get care or support from a peer, or a community agency, there is no wrong door when it comes to saving lives. Preventing Veterans suicide is a top priority for VA, the Department of Defense and this administration. Our goal is to prevent suicide among all Veterans, including those who may not receive care from us.

This September, during Suicide Prevention Month, we’re spreading awareness about the risk factors and warning signs for suicide, and helping people start the conversation around mental health and support for Veterans in their communities. During Suicide Prevention Month, and all year round, we encourage everyone to be there from Veterans and service members.

Starting the conversation may be challenging, but reaching out to a Veteran who’s facing a tough time can make all the difference, and it may even save a life.

As part of VA suicide prevention strategy, we deliver targeted support to different populations based on their suicide risk. And we know that service members transitioning to Veteran status face a higher risk of suicide, especially during the first year after separation from the military.

That’s why, this past January, President Trump signed an executive order that created a task force to align the mental health and suicide prevention efforts of VA, the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security. We’re working together, across departments, to expand mental health programs and other resources for Veterans during that critical first year after departing from uniformed service.

Even one Veteran, or service member lost to suicide is too many. VA is working hard to prevent that, through efforts like this critically important executive order, and others. But we can’t do it alone.

Visit: BeThereForVeterans.com for resources to help you be there for Veterans and the service members in your life.

Ending service member and Veteran suicide will not be easy, but we can make a positive difference, if we work together to be there, for all those who have served.

Thank you,

Robert Wilkie

Author

Robert Wilkie

The Honorable Robert L. Wilkie was sworn in to serve as Secretary of Veterans Affairs on July 30, 2018. He also served as the Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs from March 28, 2018 to May 29, 2018.

Before confirmation as VA Secretary, Mr. Wilkie served Secretary James Mattis as his Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness—the principal advisor to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense for Total Force Management as it relates to readiness, National Guard and Reserve component affairs, health affairs, training, and personnel requirements and management, including equal opportunity, morale, welfare, recreation, and the quality of life for military families.

Comments

    1. aydene t Militello    

      Frankly, we all could “write the book.” As I’ve told my Therapist, if I’m going to do it, I will do it. Suicidal ideation is not a spur of the moment cognitive game of Russian roulette. It is an ongoing presence in one’s mind. Generally there is something that stops, rather than starts, the cycle. Suicide is an escape, not from the moment, but from many moments; life as it presents itself..
      I for one am completely transgendered. No, my Military experience had nothing to do with it. We all have issues of one kind or another. Combatants who have suffered the greatest shock to what was their reality and in a day became a new reality probably have the greatest difficulty finding peace of mind.
      Transgendered is a state of Being. Sort of like being a color that someone doesn’t want to be, or accept, in others. It’s there and it can’t be changed. Everyone has a suggestion, like the Pope suggesting that parents of Homosexual children, take them to Psychiatrists. I guess he, like our Dr Wilke, can’t know each whole story.

    2. Russell Bourke, RN    

      VA Suicide ates ;

      Thank you Mr President for signing the EO that creates a Task Force to study the suicide rates among Veterans. This is a very important area of research to undertake and is long overdue. While I would like to trust the VA, DOD and Homeland Security to study the phenomena , we know the outputs of this study will be biased in a direction that supports the status quo and that is where this program falls apart. The facts surrounding the suicide rates have not reflected the VA involvement with the Veterans Care ( or lack of care , professional enmity and other sorts of negligence). Time is up on this question- is the VA involved and complicit in the loss of life of the Veterans that are now deceased? I say the VA is involved and I want the question tested based upon noetic experience and knowledge as a patient and as nurse and I’m willing to test this postulate with this: How much of the current suicide rate can be attributed to the way in which the VA and the VBA has treated our Veterans? Answer the question…

      Comment: It’s time to face up to the real costs of war, Gentlemen. Stop abusing the Veterans with the bogus Appeals courts- this is as close to Kangaroo Court as you can get; why not try evidentiary proceedings with rules of evidence, the right to speak, the right to test the evidence, the right to admit evidence and many other basic rights that have been stripped away from the Veteran. End this nightmare now and restore our rights- I served honorably, stop trying to shame me for having served my country and stop trying to shut me up for speaking out about the medical fraud. Stop hiding the truth and open up the VA and the VBA to independent examiners, the Academy of Sciences and an Independent Judiciary. I stress the word “Independent” meaning not dependent upon the DOD and its contractor jawbone influence… An independent judiciary will quickly see the many institutionalized frauds that have been perpetrated on the Veterans and turning the spotlight on in this area of investigation will begin to affect the suicide rates because the quality of care will go up. Thank you Mr Wilkie , this is a start.

  1. zakariya guenda    

    Thank you,

    Robert Wilkie
    this is one of my best post

    1. Douglas L Brinker    

      Zakaria,

      An exceptional expression what Suicide is. I am in the process of writing my recovery story of Victory over my attempts and would like to use an excerpt from this if you’d allow.
      Thank you
      Doug

  2. DW    

    This message from Mr Wilkie misses the mark in my opinion. He mentions, in passing about warning signs of possible suicidal tendencies but didn’t take a moment to include them in his message. I have been suffering for many years with PTSD, Major Depression, Anxiety and near constant suicidal thoughts. I have participated in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and gave it 100% of my participation and effort yet nothing has changed for me. I am also taking prescribed medication with no results.
    I do not include myself in family events, don’t like to be in any sized group of people and am constantly hyper alert wherever I go. I don’t actually think that this can be fixed and struggle daily to overcome it and it is an extremely difficult thing to pretend is not real. I have no joy in living and am tired of trying to fit in.

  3. George Frederick Gamble    

    I looking for work in the communications sector. Iam a retired police officer with 50 yrs experience. Because of my age, looks like no one is hiring these days. 70 yrs but I feel I still got it. I live in camp springs,md phone (redacted)

  4. Terry Scariot    

    Save A Warrior (SAW) is committed to ending the staggering suicide rate plaguing our Active Duty, National Guard, Reservists, and Veterans of the military as well as Law Enforcement Officers and other First Responders. We conceived, originated and invented the Integrated Intensive Experience (IIE) to transform the way this community and their families live their lives.

    Save A Warrior™ (SAW) has demonstrated an unparalleled success rate in suicide prevention and is unlike any other program available. Using an archetypal approach to healing – known as The Hero’s Journey – we have innovated a process that combines and synthesizes a variety of proven methods from across the spectrum of studies regarding human wellbeing.

    https://saveawarrior.org/home
    https://saveawarrior.org/media/
    https://saveawarrior.org/apply/

    Veteran’s Administration VA annual Brain Trust summit at Harvard University offers a platform for innovations in brain health and head trauma.
    Save A Warrior was a winner! See:
    http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/38161/vas-annual-brain-trust-summit-offers-platform-innovations-brain-health-head-trauma/
    https://saveawarrior.org/tribe/

  5. Douglas H Cooner    

    No mention of VA compensation for service connected PTSD and other issues such as the Gulf War Syndrome … not to mention the fact that VA doctors will not even fill or complete VA Forms for DBQ to help veterans such as the VAMC in Birmingham, Al. These forms are even issued by the VA but they still refuse. This is a disaster. Money will not solve the symptoms of suicide ideation but it will help the family with expenses to cope with a disturbed vet that has paid the continued price for service.

  6. Ronnie A. Hartsoe    

    I’ve been pro-active by seeing my outside the VA Doctor. I, was doing so well. Then, came the so-called opiod crisis. I had my pain taken care of, and got to be productive at the same time. Then, they were taken away. Little by little, my pain meds were gone. Now, its hard to do the most nominal task without being in pain for days. I, had a spotless record, and received many positive comments from my former Doctor. My outside of the VA Doctor stopped the anxiety attacks, and now, his medication that has been taken for over 30 years, including with my pain meds, and I did not try to hide my only outside the VA medication. Now, they are saying that the two cannot be dispensed together. I did well those 18 years, when the VA said they were going to address my pain issue. I, have to make a choice. my mental health, or my physical health. After 13 days without my anxiety meds, oh, how the world looked so dark. I chose my mental health! I recognized the oncoming bout with those “dark thoughts” and chose to shut them down, and did so successfully. But, the pain, is still there, and even getting to sleep, has become a major issue. Just cannot see why, both taken together, for over 18 years, 18 years where I was able to cut way back on the anxiety meds, because, it felt good to just mow the grass. To just pursue my hobby of classic British cars. Now, I have to pay someone to mow the grass, and my hobby, is deteriorating. I, am on the doorstep of turning 66, and have been told I have a deadly disease, while knowing about the particulars for 30 years, by a CT scan adminstered those many years ago. I take one day at a time, and doing the best I can to keep the pain at bay. At my age, and my ability to not abuse the pain meds, has me wondering, “WHY.”.

  7. Manuel martinez    

    Something needs to be done on the choice program.I was told that I was going to be treated at my community.That I was going to receive physical therapy and see doctors. The co. That v.a. contracted says they do not have the Dr. Or facilities to treat my condition.We have a brand new hosp.one mile away from my house,with all the necessary dr./equipment. Now u go get that one out. It’s all political and vets will continue to die .

  8. Mary Mulholland-Kafar    

    Then something desperately needs to be done for Veterans with PTSD and physical limitations they are not getting the residential placement those with just PTSD are and those without the VA are for Post 9/11 and combat Veterans. There are many like my wife who are pre 9/11 that their PTSD comes from MST and it is not just female Veterans their is male Veterans also. So this is something that needs to be rectified. Yours Mary E. Mulholland wife of a Navy Veteran begging for help and not getting it.

    1. Marcia Winston    

      Yes, it is all Political. I can never get my son back. He suffered once returning home, then on 8-18-17 he took his life.

  9. Helen E Bukovindky    

    Dear Mr. Wilkie:

    My heart has is broken. My husband, Vietnam Veteran, committed suicide on March 30, 2018 after suffering May years with PTSD. My life and my sons’s life Was shattered. He was being treated at the VA Mental Health Clinic. In the medical records, it was documented if his possible intentions. My husband would not burden me with his suffering. It happened out of the blue. Life-changing. I know he chose not be be admitted to a hospital. Our veterans need more inclusive care and understanding. Thank you for all you can do for Veterans.

  10. Norma Jean shaw    

    The Houston va would rather see SOME veterans do this just to give them even less to do. Thanks for nothing to those INDIVIDUALS!!!!!

    1. Marcia Winston    

      My heart goes out to you, I lost my son 24 years old who fought 2 tours in Afghanistan on 8-18-17 to suicide, Hew also suffered PTSD

  11. Mark Branlund    

    I’m thinking that the VA (and the world) need to start rethinking how post traumatic stress has set those that have been identified with it as being “different”. Most therapies that are being used are trying to re-integrate them BACK into being normal (not having a DISORDER) with some tools that will help reconcile activation of rheir “fight or flight” mechanism from being destructive.
    A huge part of the world’s population has some form of PTS and the integration of our veterans needs to employ that knowledge rather than setting them apart & giving them meds which lead to some sort of addiction.
    The amygdala is the gateway for self protection and the messaging needs to get to the cortex or the amygdala will stay as the controlling brain mechanism.
    I would be happy to include some resources that will help.

    Mark B.

  12. Bridget St John    

    Is there a resource/link that shows how the VA is expanding mental health services? What is the plan? Many veterans don’t have access to the VA because it is too far away, or therapists in the area are not “in-network” with the VA for more than one reason such as the difficulty in becoming “in-network” or having not been paid by the VA (denied claims) even though an authorization was in place. Vet centers are few and far between as well and often times don’t provide family therapy services if desired by the veteran. I would love to see a link to this proposed plan. Thank you!

  13. John Leslie Fleming    

    LOL… I forgot to copy my comment before submitting it. As often happens, it gave me an error code for the “wrong captcha”. VA lies, as usual. Thanks!

  14. Dahn Shaulis    

    I wish that the VA would do more and have offered to help. But VA doesn’t seem interested.

  15. joe lamay    

    ]if the comp & pen started giving honest decisions instead if decisions their bureaucrat bosses order you would see the suicide rates drop . this dept is well known for its “delay them till the die attitude “>!!!!!!!!!

  16. Robert J, Grupa    

    When U have to deal with an organization that does not respond to requests for help, after years of delays, non responce for status requests, you feel like suicide is the only solution you’re going to get from the VA. I feel as though they want to wait till I die before they will do what is right. It’s now eight years and 3 months waiting on the VA . A job anyone could have done in less than a week, even a three year old.

  17. Richard G Kensinger    

    I am a retired clinical psychologist and psychology professor. I have now worked w/ Vets spanning the Korean Conflict to the current ones. I am a former AF medic during the Vietnam Conflict. I continue to conduct clinical research on combat trauma particularly. Many of the Vets I encounter experience TBI, PTSD, and SUD all related directly to multiple combat excursions. I have three articles based on my research available on Brain Blogger in this regard.

    I have deepest regard for my comrades and continue my efforts in their behalf to do what I can to reduce these drastic suicide rates.
    Rich, MSW

  18. Helen Klein    

    In my humble and probably jaded opinion this all sounds like political BS. Not a single person in the Army leadership cares and at high leadership is not corrupt. They will lie cheat and steal to get ahead in their careers and for promotion. So it’s insulting to so many veterans who gave so much and are truly suffering and will never have normal happy lives for you to post this kind of ‘hope’.
    I still wish I was wrong to believe this, but thus far…I have been disappointed and betrayed too many times by the military. All the best to all those suffering, I pray for a better day.
    P.s. i fully expect this comment will never be posted. It’s olay

  19. Marcia Winston    

    Hello, my name is Marcia Sessoms, and I lost my son to Suicide on 8-18-2017. He was fresh out of the Army in 2016. He fought 2 tours in Afghanistan, There was very little treatment or any other resources available to him once returning home. I’m not sure how the Army follows it’s soldiers, but this was undoubtedly a significant loss to our family. I am now doing awareness and prevention seminars and events to help educate our communities on PTSD, Depression, and Suicide.

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