Service members who lose their lives in combat are often at the forefront of the public’s minds on Memorial Day. However, in reality, more veterans lose their lives from suicide than on deployment.
KGNU’s Hannah Leigh Myers spoke with Dr. Lisa Brenner, a research clinical psychologist, and Director of the Rocky Mountain Mental Illness Research Education And Clinical Center or MIRECC at the Department of Veterans Affairs, about the opportunity Memorial Day offers to remember service members who lose their lives battling mental health challenges and to learn how to as help prevent veteran suicide deaths.
Late last year the Department of Veterans Affairs released the 2020 National Veteran Suicide Prevention report looking at extensive data gathered two years prior. According to the report, 6,435 service members died by suicide in 2018 alone. By contrast, between 2001 and 2018, around 7,000 enlisted troops died in conflict zones.
Dr. Brenner says, “you never want to plan for a crisis during a crisis.” She urges the public to use Memorial Day as a chance to take advantage of the available resources offering suggestions on what specific words and strategies to use to help veterans feel more comfortable discussing mental health issues. Dr. Brenner also feels Memorial Day is a good time for individuals remembering a veteran who lost their life to suicide to utilize the VA’s postvention resources that can help promote healing.
- Veterans Crisis Line (call/chat/text) – For Veterans/service members as well as friends and family – Confidential – Available every day, 24/7
- Rocky Mountain MIRECC
- Uniting for Suicide Postvention (USPV) – Provides resources and healing for those who have lost someone to suicide
- The Suicide Risk Management Consultation Program (SRM) – Provides free consultation, support, and resources that promote therapeutic best practices for providers working with Veterans at risk of suicide
- S.A.V.E. – Gatekeeper Training – A one-to two-hour gatekeeper training program provided by VA suicide prevention coordinators to veterans and those who serve veterans. (Optional role-playing exercises are included) – Click here to begin training.