Left Behind: Treating The Crisis Of Veteran Suicide

Left Behind: Treating The Crisis Of Veteran Suicide

12:21pm Jun 01, 2017
Military veterans make up seven percent of the American population, but they account for 20 percent of its suicides. (Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon/dvidshub, http://bit.ly/2sjoxnh)

Suicide is a major health concern across the U.S., especially among military veterans. Every day, approximately 20 veterans take their own lives.

North Carolina has the third highest population of active duty and reserve military members, and Thursday night, a local panel discussion will take place to raise awareness about this ongoing epidemic and offer solutions.

Tiffany Hall works with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Salisbury, and she’s a suicide prevention care manager at the Health Care Center in Kernersville. Hall spoke with WFDD’s David Ford.

Interview Highlights

On resources available to help veterans return to civilian life:

We have social workers that work with veterans as far as re-entry into the community. We have social workers who assist with jobs and job placement. We have our homeless veteran department, mental health—there are lots of services to try to help the veteran return back to civilian society. It’s just a matter of getting some folks to accept that help.

A lot of times when people return from service, and disconnect from the military, they want to disconnect from it all—not just the military service, but VA health. So, we do find individuals who may be in their 50s or 60s—I’ve even encountered veterans who were 70 years old and this was their first time using the VA.

On the accessibility of mental health services for uninsured veterans within the VA:

That varies depending on their disability, [which] services, how long they were in service, service connections. But they can still come in.

At our vet centers—we have one in Greensboro—if there’s any military trauma, whether you’re service connected, whether you receive veteran benefits, you could still go to the vet center for mental health service. Even some of our folks who have other than honorable discharges, if it’s a mental health related issue, they can be seen at the VA as well.   

On what can be done as a society to lower the number of veteran suicides:

First, we have to reduce the stigma with mental health. You know, just saying that you have a mental illness…people frown upon that. They don’t want to hear about it. They may look at you differently. They don’t really want to talk about it. I mean, let’s be honest, if someone came up to the average person and said, “You know, I’ve been thinking about killing myself,” would they have an appropriate response? Would they know who to call to offer that person help?

So, it’s about education…letting people know the signs, the symptoms, where to go, where to go within Forsyth County to find someone help—to get them help. I think education is the key in reducing that number throughout the population.

Thursday night’s panel discussion is titled “Suicide: A Public Health Issue Within the Veterans' Community”. It will be held in the Old Salem Visitors Center in Winston-Salem beginning at 6:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Support your
public radio station