The Fayetteville Veterans Affairs Medical Center brought some of its resources to Fort Bragg when it presented its “2017 Community Mental Health Summit: Whole Health Approach to Suicide Prevention” at the Pope Family Readiness Group Center, Friday.
The summit was designed to enhance the mental health care of veterans and their Families through a collaborative effort between the Fayetteville VAMC and community mental health providers and services, according to information obtained from Jeff Melvin, Fayetteville VAMC Public Affairs Officer. It addressed various risks factors for suicide and identified how the whole health approach could improve veteran care and wellbeing.
Dr. Sita Kanithi, a local recovery coordinator and psychologist, said she coordinated the summit, bringing together resources to help veterans.
Resource providers included the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which provides education and advocacy of mental illness-related issues and Project Healing Waters Flying Fishing, which offers physical and emotional rehabilitation for injured active-duty service members and disabled veterans.
Some focused topics included Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, chronic pain and enhancing care and access for female veterans.
“The goal is to not turn anyone away. The goal is to build bridges,” Kanithi said.
Lynn Hauka is an Army veteran who attended the summit. She founded Quit the Crazy, dedicated to showing those, particularly spouses, connected to veterans with PTSD and mental health trauma how to rise above difficulties.
“This is really where my heart is,” said Hauka, who wants her clients to know that they are not lost, alone or forgotten.
The summit, she said, provided great resources that will enable her to be a linchpin for those seeking help with PTSD-related issues, likely also helping to decrease the suicide rate.
“I think they (Fayetteville VA) did a great job. I am super-pumped,” Hauka said.
Sonia Wharton, a Womack Army Medical Center behavioral healthcare facilitator and registered nurse, said the summit offered informative resources.
“For self-awareness, I wish to God that they had it more than once a year,” she explained.
Heather Hennessey, an eight-year Army veteran, military spouse of an active-duty member, and a peer recovery support specialist at the Fayetteville VA, said the summit is important.
“We need to get more information out to the veterans, especially the female veterans,” explaining that more than 1 million in the U.S. alone are not accessing care.
Statewide, there are 86,791 female veterans, who have services available to them such as primary care, mental health care, military sexual trauma, mammography, etc. But, some of the barriers to care that affect women have been lack of communication about VA eligibility and programs, mental health stigma, lack of female-centered care, childcare and transportation issues, among others.
The Fayetteville VA has begun to get past the medical model into recovery and wellness, which leads to living the best life possible, Hennessey explained.
It’s a wholeness effort to suicide prevention, particularly since, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs, an average of 20 veterans (male/female) die from suicide each day. Female veterans have a rate between two and five times higher than their civilian counterparts and those rates have climbed to an increase of 85 percent over the past 25 years.
“We have to engage them into care because there are so many who are not receiving care,” said Kanithi. “When they do receive care, there is less risk of suicide.”
Veterans who need assistance may call the Fayetteville VA at 488-2120, the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, press 1; and the Lines for Life Military Helpline at 888-457-4838.
For more information about the Fayetteville VA, visit www.fayettevillenc.va.gov/ or call 488-2120.
For more information about WAMC, visit www.wamc.amedd.army.mil/SitePages/Home.aspx or call 907-6000.