VAMC Manchester, New Hampshire
Combat Veterans support VA to end Veteran suicide
Combat Veterans, Community Providers and VA take on Suicide Prevention at Annual Conference
VA New England Health Care held a Regional Conference to Align Efforts and Resources to Combat Veteran Suicide
MANCHESTER, N.H. – The Department of Veterans Affairs’ number one clinical priority is to eliminate suicide among Veterans. As part of the Department’s ongoing efforts, VA New England Healthcare held a conference to share resources, insight from combat Veterans and experts, and collaborate to better arm our communities to end suicide among Veterans.
“Women Veterans are 1.8 times more likely to die by suicide than non-Veteran females. The rate of suicide is 1.4 times higher among male Veterans when compared with non-Veteran adult men. Male Veterans ages 18-34 have the highest rates of suicide and male Veterans ages 55 and older have the highest count of suicide. One to two service members die by suicide each day and 123 Americans die by suicide each day. The world-wide rate of suicide is one person every 40 seconds,” said Keita Franklin, LCSW, PhD, Executive Director Suicide Prevention, VHA Office of Mental Health. “No single organization can tackle suicide prevention alone.” As the Keynote Speaker, Franklin spoke to the value of partnerships, safe messaging and the need for all to take an action-oriented stance in this fight to put an end to suicide.
The program included presentations from combat Veterans Richard Barbato, MSW, 82nd Airborne Division, Iraq, Acting Management Analyst, VHA Readjustment Counseling Service, Office of Planning and Policy and Ryan Pitts, Medal of Honor Recipient, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Afghanistan, who presented The Road Home: Interdicting Suicide Risk by Strengthening Our Communities. They shared their personal experience with readjustment and loss, and the importance of community connection.
Cpt. Ray Gilmore, (Ret) U.S. Army, also a combat Veteran, shared his story of service which included his personal battle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). “Like many others, I denied the diagnosis. I was a Ranger, Sapper, Airborne and Mountain Qualified, Combat Advisory – there was no way, that I had PTSD,” Gilmore shared. Gilmore’s story highlighted the impact people had made by being there for him. Today his work is to recover and be there for others. “Getting up, to speak to a group of strangers, about my journey and my struggles; that is hard. And, I hope that it made a difference.”
Others in attendance or who presented included Lisa Lehmann, MD, PhD, FACP, Chief Medical Officer, VA New England Network Healthcare System and Amy Cook, Team Lead for the NH Governor’s Challenge to prevent suicide. Leadership from Manchester, White River Junction and Togus VA Medical Centers, as well as community providers, Veterans, professors, and faith-based leaders were also in attendance. In all there were 170 participants.
“My hope is that you leave today feeling inspired and empowered that we as citizens can share a common purpose to make a difference,” said Shara Katsos, VISN 1 Deputy Lead for the Strategic Initiative for Suicide Prevention and Deputy Homeless Coordinator, VA New England. Katsos served as the event’s emcee and shared, “…over the last seven years, we have significantly reduced the number of homeless Veterans in New England as a community, and I know we can do this.”
Every day approximately 20 Veterans die by suicide. Of those 20, approximately 6 have enrolled in the VA. Our aim is to serve all who served. VA stands ready to welcome you home and provide the healthcare you have earned. Join the community after service by enrolling in the healthcare you have earned at www.va.gov/health-care/apply/application/introduction or walk into your local VA medical center.
If you are a Veteran, service member, National Guard or Reserve member there is support no matter what you are experiencing. If you are a loved one, family or a friend there is help and guidance for you. Call the Veterans Crisis Line for free confidential support at 800-273-8255 Press 1. We are here for you 24/7. You can also text at 838255. For more information and support go to www.veteranscrisisline.net/.