Why I Wear a Suicide Prevention Wrist Band
I watched with amazement how the internet caught fire with indignation about media mogul Ted Turner’s inappropriate comments about suicides among our service members.
I agree with Daily Beast reporter Jamie Reno’s essay where he suggests the incident become a valuable teaching moment.
During the past twenty-two years, several Veterans confided in me their suicidal thoughts and plans. Today, after several lawsuits and too many deaths, VA has evolved, and VA continues evolving under pressure from advocates and with new leadership.
In the past five years, significant improvements include a Commander in Chief urging care for those who need it, streamlined VA disability benefits, plus more suicide prevention resources, to name a few. American culture is far more educated and understanding of our veterans than 40 years ago.
Can VA still improve? Yes, because 18 preventable Veteran suicides per day is too many. Recent VA statistics reveal VA grants about half of Veterans’ PTSD disability claims. Too many Veterans still wait too long to get care. However, VA’s suicide prevention hotline has been contacted more than 723,000 times by distraught veterans, service members, and families. VA rescued more than 23,000. For their professionalism in crisis, VA employees should be commended.
But the war continues overseas for our troops, and at home for millions more. That means I’ll continue wearing my elastic wristband with VA’s toll-free number ~ 800-273-8255 (and press “1”) ~ as a reminder of my friends and fellow veterans who died as well as a handy resource. I do this because each of us can make a difference, and the change starts when we treat physical and mental health wounds equally. And we are successful when no veteran waits for quality care and benefits.