On Aug 5, 2019 I attended the yearly Mental Health Summit put on by the VA. The speakers were good and the information very targeted. It is always clear in this conference that the VA has spent significant effort, time and money to address suicide and suicide prevention. However, it is important for us to understand that the majority of Veterans do not use VA services. And as a result, this clinical problem falls on local resources.
Suicide statistics are sobering: 20 veterans suicide each day, 1,000,000 + suicide attempts per year on a national basis with 50,000 deaths. Suicide is the 8th cause of death in Minnesota. As a psychologist, I know that many suicides are not officially documented as suicides, e.g. some MVAs, medication errors, non-compliance to diet, meds or diabetes management and other circumstances that “hide” what really happened. Suicide stats are larger than they appear!
It is critical that we need to understand that local community resources (like PBYR), other non-profits, employers, police and other community partners are critical in suicide prevention efforts. The VA clearly acknowledges they can’t address this problem without assistance and partners. Veterans returning to college often have predictable adjustment problems in the academic environment and college staff needs to be educated on the range of issues that may be encountered. I encourage all to consider attending the VA Mental Health Summit workshop in 2020.