Veteran services saying ‘purpose’ could be key in suicide crisis

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National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Week began Monday

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — September 5 kicks off National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Week, and one community that deals with that topic on a daily basis is our nation’s veterans. In the US, we lose around 22 each day to suicide. News 8 spoke with Veteran Services at the County, and the Veterans Outreach Center, to see what the underlying causes may be — and what solutions exist. 

Traditionally, Nick Stefanovic with veteran services says Veterans Affairs is the ‘go-to’ for mental health treatment. 

“Know that the VA is limited in their capacity and we can do more,” he says.

Stefanovic says thankfully we have a number of additional resources here like the Veterans Outreach Center. Giving a veteran ‘purpose’ he says is key.

“When you get out of the military, many of us, we can’t find our way towards having that purpose again. Having that purpose in life removed can be crushing to somebody. So the answer is opportunity. We have to go beyond sitting down with veterans in an office and talking about their feelings. We have to be willing to work through and be willing to present opportunities to them. Opportunities for jobs, opportunities for meaning in their lives,” he says.

Laura Stradley with the VOC says purpose is a big part of the solution. “I think providing purpose is hugely important though and that’s one of the things you hear veterans say most often,” she says.

It’s something the VOC does every day through therapy programs and employment opportunities, but that said, “It’s so complicated and it’s so unique to every individual,” Stradley adds.

She says that’s why it’s so hard to get a grip on why so many veterans take their lives. Recent events like the Afghanistan exit she says also prompting mixed emotions. The national crisis line in Canandaigua seeing a spike in calls when compared to last year, the pullout is likely the cause she says. 

Compared with this time last year, calls are up 7%, texts are up 95%, and chats are up almost 40%, according to numbers provided by the Canandaigua VA.

“I think how many of them are feel their service and sacrifices were almost futile,” she says.

Stefanovic says when it comes to mental health, Congress needs to do more to let the VA outsource into local communities. 

“The federal government needs to be able to push money into the hands of local community providers,” he says.

For Suicide Prevention and Awareness Week, the VOC has a series of events planned, including ‘crisis in a crisis workshop’, ‘raise the flag’, and others. For full details, click here.

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