Rising suicide rates among America’s veterans is the elephant in the room during any discussion of VA reform and increasing access to mental health services. This important issue is something no one wants to talk about simply because we don’t know how to handle it. The vast majority of the US population never went to war, doesn’t understand combat trauma, and doesn’t know how to treat serious problems like PTSD. Furthermore, our society has this misguided expectation for men, especially soldiers, to not have problems and never show stress. While our military servicemen put their lives on the line out on the battlefield to protect Americans, who is going to protect them when they come home?
The Trump administration recognizes the detrimental impact of suicide on the veteran community and is taking significant steps to address this health crisis.
On Wednesday, President Trump held a White House address, along with Vice President Mike Pence, to announce the next steps in deterring veteran suicide under the PREVENTS plan. Trump’s two-year “road map” intends to establish a cabinet-level task force to design a veteran suicide prevention campaign which will consist of a variety of awareness measures.
The road map consists of 10 recommendations primarily focused on raising public awareness for implementation over the next few weeks. It will include a $53 million national public health messaging campaign, updating research methods on veteran suicide, and prevention training for multiple occupations. More specifically, the plan will support firearm safety, new barriers at railroads and bridges (common locations for suicide attempts), as well as wellness programs at workplaces that employ veterans.
This week’s update was a follow-up on his March 2019 executive order that initiated PREVENTS, which stands for President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End the National Tragedy of Suicides.
Stressing the importance of the PREVENTS task force and measures his administration will be taking, the president said, “Veteran suicide is a tragedy this country started measuring in the decades following the Civil War, but one that sadly went unaddressed for generations.” However, Trump has vowed to end public ignorance of the monumental issues that American troops face daily. The president promised, “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.”
The Trump administration is dedicated to acknowledging this public health crisis. According to The Epoch Times, a senior White House official said on a press pool call that military veterans are 1.5 times more vulnerable to suicide than non-veterans, and about 6,000 veterans commit suicide yearly. Suicide is already a huge problem in America and our veterans are suffering the worst from it. He continued, “Approximately 20 veterans and Guardsmen commit suicide a day. And, unfortunately, very – only about 30 percent, 6 of those 20, have any connection to the VA.”
The senior official also revealed that most veterans just don’t go to the VA for healthcare. Trump’s road map intends address this problem by improving outreach and communication between the VA and veterans. To increase options, the president will extend grants to community programs outside of veteran-specific hospitals, expanding the private-sector’s Veteran’s Choice health program.
This week’s updates to the PREVENTS task force’s plans aim to “seek to reach every corner of our nation, leaving no one behind,” according to the 66-page road map. America’s veterans deserve better than being forgotten in dealing with traumas and stress they experience daily as side effects of war. It’s time we, the public, step up as a whole to do our part in helping our country’s heroes cope when they return home – and the Trump administration plans to encourage just that.