Panel Convened by Bennet’s Veterans Working Group to Address Veteran Suicides
Recommendations Include Better Collaboration Between Providers, Facilitation of More Veteran-to-Veteran Contact and More Support for Families
Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet's panel on Veteran Suicide and Mental Health today released a report detailing recommendations to address the high number of suicides committed by United States Veterans.
The panel was commissioned by Senator Bennet in partnership with his Veterans Working Group. The panel is comprised of members of the military, mental health professionals and Veteran advocates, Veteran Service Organizations, and Veterans. Bennet will use these recommendations as the foundation for his work to prevent Veteran suicides and to increase and improve Veteran mental health access and care.
A U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) study finding that 22 American Veterans commit suicide every day, almost one per hour, spurred the Working Group’s call for the panel. Over the last five years, 937 Colorado Veterans have contributed to these staggering statistics.
“We simply cannot stand by when Veterans are committing suicide because they are lacking the tools they need to heal when they come home,” Bennet said. “Veterans and their families earned better than this when they chose to serve. These recommendations start the critical conversation about where and how we can do better and I am grateful to this panel for helping to provide a foundation for our work moving forward.”
The report details eleven recommendations for how to prevent Veteran suicide by:
- Better connecting the institutions and organizations that serve Veterans in a community
- Better linking Veterans with Veterans and informing where they can connect with other Veterans
- Providing more support and information to families
- Enhancing coordination between the VA and Communities
- Improving our system so that we can continuously and accurately identify service members with mental health needs.
“Many Veterans who have done so much for our country through their service – both men and women – continue to face struggles in coming to grips with what they have experienced, whether from the stress of combat or too often the specter of military sexual trauma. Unfortunately this manifests itself in the form of suicide,” said Izzy Abbass, Commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1. “If we are to truly be a grateful nation, we need to not only provide connection to the best possible resources expediently, we also need to redouble our efforts to remove the stigma of facing these horrors while still in the service.”
“When our service members transition from active duty to civilian life, we have a responsibility to support them and their families throughout that process,” said Mary Ellen Benson, Vice President of Healthcare Innovation at AspenPointe. “Veterans and their families undergo a lot of stress during this transition, and we should be able to come together either through the VA or community-based providers to ensure that they have access to mental health professionals to help them if they need it. These men and women served our nation, and the solutions we pursue should be part of a national collaborative response. If we can partner together, we have a much better chance of meeting the growing needs of our Veterans.”
“Not all of our Veterans return with wounds that are visible on the outside, but many of them require even greater care as they begin their new lives outside of the military,” said Susan Holmes, Program Manager of Operation TBI Freedom at Rocky Mountain Human Services. “This panel has put forth a set of recommendations that we believe can serve as a foundation to help reduce the number of suicides committed by our Veterans. It is encouraging to see the community’s desire to help our military families – in good times and challenging times – because every Soldier and family is worth it.”
For the past several years, Bennet has engaged the Colorado Veterans community on a host of issues. He commissioned a report in 2011 on how to better serve Veterans and military families and to prepare for troops returning from service abroad. That report called for the creation of a National Veterans Foundation modeled after work being done in Colorado Springs to fill gaps that exist between public and private agencies, as well as service providers that support America’s Veterans. The privately-funded foundation would provide planning grants for exactly the type of community-based network described in the recommendations.
To learn more about the Veterans suicide report and recommendations, please visit https://www.bennet.senate.gov/senator-bennet-veteran-suicide-panel-recommendations.