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Communities help with Veteran suicide prevention

You may think VA only works with Veterans at VA-owned facilities like medical centers, Vet Centers and VA regional offices. While VA does offer comprehensive benefits and health care services at hundreds of sites across the country, we also expand our programs and initiatives beyond VA facilities to ensure we reach all Veterans, even those who don’t use our services.

This is especially important with suicide prevention.

We know from talking with Veterans from different service eras and backgrounds that Veterans are more likely to be receptive to advice and information coming from sources they trust: Their fellow Veterans, friends and relatives, Veteran organizations and local organizations.

By providing community-based and Veteran-centric organizations with suicide prevention resources, we increase the chances of reaching Veterans and their supporters where they are.

We do this by encouraging suicide prevention coordinators (SPCs) located in each VA medical center across the country to make connections with community groups, businesses and academic institutions to share VA resources and educational materials.

How coordinators support local organizations

SPCs can collaborate with local organizations to share suicide prevention best practices and improve the community’s awareness of suicide risk and protective factors, military culture, firearm and medication secure storage and resources like the Veterans Crisis Line.

I’ve spoken to a few of them about their work with local organizations and I can tell you they are passionate about helping Veterans. They know some Veterans only want community services, so they’re happy to partner with local organizations to provide what Veterans need.

You may see an SPC hosting a VA S.A.V.E. training event, speaking at a community program or distributing information about VA resources at local events.

The following is a brief list of what SPCs can provide to your organization:

Information on how to help Veterans enroll in and navigate the VA system

Information about what Veterans can expect when they call the Veterans Crisis Line

Information about how Veterans can start treatment

Details on how to help Veterans access specific VA programs focused on employment assistance, housing or financial-related services, women VeteransLGBTQ+ Veterans or Veteran caregivers

Help to remove any barriers Veterans face in getting the support they need such as transportation issues, problems accessing a phone or lack of internet connectivity

Promotional items, like magnets, totes, pens, stickers and coasters with the Veterans Crisis Line contact information

Free cable gun locks and medication storage boxes

SPCs are always looking for ways to spread the word about VA suicide prevention. They also provide information on how to access resources so they can reach the most Veterans with potentially lifesaving information.

How to contact your local SPC

If your organization works with Veterans, your local SPC may contact you to share information or gauge your interest in building a coalition or partnership.

You can find your local SPC using our local resources website. You also can reach out to discuss opportunities to collaborate or receive VA materials like brochures, cable gun locks and promotional items.

A partnership could support local Veterans

You don’t have to be a mental health expert to help prevent Veteran suicide. Everyone has a role to play.

If your organization or business is able to reach Veterans or their supporters, consider getting in touch with an SPC. Dealing with a large health care system like VA may seem daunting, but our SPCs are here to simplify the process and make it easier to access suicide prevention resources so Veterans can get the care they need and deserve.

Please reach out today if you think a partnership could benefit the Veterans in your community.

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