In support of Suicide Prevention Month, VA and AMVETS teamed up for a #BeThere Facebook Live event to discuss how to recognize the need for mental health care and where to go to find help.
Dr. Matthew Miller, Acting Director of VA’s Suicide Prevention Program, joined Jan Brown, AMVETS National Commander, and Cherissa Jackson, Chief Medical Executive of AMVETS. Each provided information on a range of resources and services available to service members, Veterans and their family members.
Dr. Miller, an Air Force Veteran himself, began by emphasized the strength of America’s Veterans. “Part of being strong, part of being resilient is knowing when to bring in assistance or help,” he said. “We all learned that in the military and it’s applying those same principals to this.”
VA resources range from online information to inpatient and outpatient counseling programs. Go to the Resource Locator to find local resources such as Suicide Prevention Coordinators, Crisis Centers and Vet Centers. All three panelists stressed the importance of community Vet Centers, which offer counseling to combat Veterans–both honorably and dishonorably discharged. It also offers counseling to service members and their family members.
Share your story!
Ms. Brown encouraged Veterans to connect with other Veterans whether at a Veteran Service Organization or VA location.
“I love the peer to peer groups that VA has started,” she said. “I think they are probably one of the best things that VA has done in years in the mental health area.”
The panelists shared their personal experiences. Ms. Jackson raised the concern that there is a stigma surrounding mental health care particularly where Veterans don’t want to be perceived as being weak.
“You sharing your story is a significant step for others who may be watching and saying – I can relate.” Dr. Miller replied. “The first thing we can do I think as Veterans is open the door for conversation.
“So reach out, connect, create an invitation to talk,” he said. “It’s okay to mention the word suicide. A lot of people think, well am I going to give them the idea if I ask directly, or if I open the conversation? What we find especially with Veterans is they find it helpful. They feel a sense of relief that someone is bringing it up and there’s an opportunity to talk about it.”
Ms. Jackson agreed that simply reaching out and showing you care is important, saying, “All we have to do is just be there for our Veterans, and we don’t need to have all the answers.”
Showing your support can be as simple as sending a message by email, text or calling someone. Your words could be exactly what a service member or Veteran in crisis needs to hear.
For service members, Veterans and their families who are in crisis, they are encouraged to call the Veterans Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255 and press 1 or text 838255).
S.A.V.E., which stands for Signs, Ask, Validate, Encourage and Expedite, offers simple steps anyone – whether a treatment provider, clinician, friend or family member – can take when talking with Veterans at risk for suicide. The training, provided in collaboration with PsychArmor Institute, is a free online training course that teaches you how to identify Veterans at risk for suicide and how to help them. The free training video can be viewed at: https://psycharmor.org/courses/s-a-v-e/.
VA representatives responded to questions following the conversation and directed Veterans to www.va.gov to learn more about VA benefits, and how to apply.
Highlights from the chat:
If you missed this event, check out some of the highlights below.
A few viewers wanted to know what to do if you think someone close to you needs help but doesn’t seek it.
VA does provide some other resources for family members.
Anyone can request a new provider if they are not happy with the care they are receiving.
One Veteran was concerned that the crisis line might be off limits to her or her loved one.
VA shared some resources to where Veterans, family members and friends could learn more about how to help.
Thank you to all the service members, Veterans and their supporters who participated in the event. Stay tuned to the VA Facebook Events Page for information about upcoming events.
For more details about VA benefits and how to apply, visit VA.gov.
Watch the full video below or visit AMVETS Facebook Page.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the Veterans Crisis Line for confidential support 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. Call 800-273-8255 and press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat or text 838255.
Reporters covering the topic of suicide are encouraged to visit http://reportingonsuicide.org/ for important guidance.