The VA and Colorado Springs Community Discuss Suicide Prevention

Contributed by Amanda Nurmi, Community Outreach Coordinator, PMCN

Community organizations came together last week for the VA Mental Health Summit and one of the main topics of conversation was suicide prevention. There were five panelists with strong and important messages, the main one being that people need support systems and cannot/should not have to go through these tough times alone.

Tammy Hopman, Suicide Prevention Coordinator for ECHCS VA, talked about how the feeling of loneliness kills more people than a heart attack. Hopman also spoke about Thomas Joiner’s three key motivational aspects, which contribute to suicide: 1) a sense of being a burden to others, 2) a profound sense of loneliness, alienation and isolation, and 3) a sense of fearlessness.

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VA Mental Health Summit Pannelists (left to right: Tammy Hopman, Joshua Kreimeyer, Waymon Stallcup, Katie Civiletto, and the moderator, Adam Hoffberg)

Joshua Kreimeyer, Regis University, discussed the effective preventive measures the Division of Counseling and Family Therapy at the University utilize to help military families come together and build strong, positive relationships. They host a Welcome Home Warrior Retreat where military families can go away for a couple of days together and bond. Building relationships with each other and the other families.

The Vet Center pointed out  that there are many resources for the veteran, but not for the spouses, “you need to be in the safety plan because you are a big part of it, and a good part of it”, stated Waymon Stallcup, Readjustment Counseling Therapist at the Vet Center. The Vet Center has veterans and their families create safety plans that work for them and their lifestyles to ensure they are creating positive situations. Stallcup reiterated that the three rules they have for their veterans is “self-care, self-care and self-care.”

Give an Hour discussed the Campaign to Change Direction, changing the culture of mental health and encouraging people to pay attention to their emotional well-being. Katie Civiletto, Project Specialist at Give an Hour, stated the population needs to change the conversation around mental health and start to pay attention to the warning signs of someone needing help.

Overall, the community gathered at this daylong event to discuss productive and realistic ways we should, and are, rallying together to ensure our military and veterans are receiving the assistance they need. Suicide takes the lives of approximately 20 veterans a day, and the community will not stop until that number is down to zero.

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