WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Suicide prevention month is highlighting how the U.S. Can better address the issue. A specific focus currently in Washington is a push to end veteran suicide. Senators are examining what is being done to help veterans in need, and what other efforts are necessary.
Kayda Keleher says there are great strides being made to prevent veteran suicide but there is a lot more work that needs to be done.
One veteran says it is not easy to solve this tragic problem.
“There’s such a stigma with mental health,” said Kayda Keleher, Associate Director at Veterans of Foreign Wars.
20 veterans take their own lives every day. As Suicide Prevention Month comes to a close, Keleher says addressing mental health for all Americans is the right approach to getting these veterans the help they need.
“We have to get to a point where we better understand it, and we’re definitely working on that,” said Keleher.
She served in the Marine Corps for five years. It’s an issue dear to her heart. She says great strides are being made in areas like telehealth, but there is much more work to be done, especially helping veterans in rural areas.
“It’s important that we don’t forget about the basics. The proven, empirically proven, necessities of face-to-face therapy options and just being there for one another as veterans,” said Keleher.
The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a hearing to look at what the VA is doing to combat veteran suicide. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) sits on the committee and is currently in the Marine Corps reserves. He says as a country, we need to be able to get help to every veteran in the U.S.
“I lost one of my Marines to suicide, you know, after he reached out to me. It’s a very hard issue,” said Sullivan.
Sullivan says key parts of the hearing with VA Secretary David Shulkin were the ability to Identify mental health issues and to reach veterans in remote areas who require help. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who also sits on the committee, says the VA has a shortage in qualified mental health specialists.
“We need help. We need professionals. We need psychiatry help, we need to be able to get these people and give them the assistance they’re needing,” said Manchin.
The senators say implementing these new ideas will be key in saving lives. If you or someone you know is a veteran struggling with suicidal thoughts you can dial 1-800-273-8255 and press one.