A new initiative to help our nation’s veterans suffering from mental health issues and suicide was announced by President Trump along with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on Wednesday.
PREVENTS, The Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide, is a result of President Trump’s executive order that was signed back on March 5, 2019 and lead by second lady Karen Pence calling on the Department of Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Defense to generate an elaborate plan in ending the national tragedy of suicide. This now nationwide plan with wide-ranging initiatives is set to raise awareness about mental health, incorporate focused and correlated research into suicide, firearm safety and gun storage education, connect Veterans and others at risk of suicide to federal and local resources, award grants to community programs outside the Department of Veterans Affairs, and add barriers, suicide signage, and call boxes near railroads, bridges, and other high-risk areas.
According to statistics, an estimated 20 veterans take their own lives every single day, that is about 1.5 times higher than those who have not served in the military. The suicide rate is particularly high amongst younger vets, who don’t always have access to VA health care when they leave the service. President Trump’s executive order will now automatically enroll them for VA mental health care.
“Suicide prevention is VA’s highest clinical priority, and the department is taking significant steps to address the issue,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “But just as there is no single cause of suicide, no single organization can end Veteran suicide alone. That’s why PREVENTS aims to bring together stakeholders across all levels of government and in the private sector to work side by side to provide our Veterans with the mental health and suicide prevention services they need. By employing a public-health approach to suicide prevention, President Trump’s roadmap will equip communities to help Veterans get the right care, whenever and wherever they need it.”
With the coronavirus pandemic still on the horizon, Veterans’ advocacy groups had issued a warning earlier this year that there would be an increase in mental health needs due to strained resources and an increase of social isolation. According to VA officials, telehealth medical appointments have jumped from 20,000 in February to nearly 154,000 in April.
“Veteran suicide is a tragedy this country started measuring in the decades following the Civil War, but one that sadly went unaddressed for generations,” said President Trump. “Today, my administration is taking steps to ensure the men and women who bravely fought for us when they were called will be given the care and attention, they need during some of their darkest hours. Our Veterans will lead the way for all Americans as we end the stigma that for too long has kept us from talking openly about mental health and thwarted our efforts to provide the kind of assistance and support that will save lives…They fought their battles overseas and now we must join them in fighting this new battle at home.”