Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.
Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.
Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space. #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle
The #COVID-19 #pandemic, and the economic cataclysm it has wrought, have had an enormous impact on the #mentalhealth of our country. #Americans of all stripes are preoccupied with making ends meet, worried about their physical health, affected by the constant #isolation, and stressed out by the uncertainty of when life will once again get back to a place of at least semi-normality.
Now, as the trajectory of the #pandemic in the #UnitedStates points ever further into the future, experts are expressing concern about a rise in #suiciderisk among the most impacted and most vulnerable segments of our population. Perhaps more than any other group, #America’s #veterans are especially susceptible to this moment.
Unfortunately, the #COVID crisis is making that effort more challenging even as it becomes ever more imperative. A report published recently by the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute projects that for every 5 percent increase in the unemployment rate, our country will lose an additional 550 #veterans to #suicide annually. Additionally, according to their projections, up to 20,000 more #veterans may be susceptible to substance abuse as a result of the crisis. The #isolation caused by the #pandemic has made a lot of already-lonely people even lonelier, further amplifying the risk of #veteran #suicide.
The #U.S.DepartmentofVeteransAffairs deserves credit for its success in pivoting during the #pandemic on the delivery of care, including the expansion of tele-health options and the offering of #mentalhealthservices using digital tools. Despite those improvements, however, it appears that a large share of #veterans most in need of support still face barriers in accessing it.
According to #veterans’ groups who testified recently on Capitol Hill, the challenge of serving the #mentalhealth needs of at-risk #veterans has been compounded by the fact that many #veterans, particularly older #veterans, don’t have access to or can’t afford the necessary technology, including high-speed internet. This particular version of the digital divide short-circuits access to the vital #mentalhealthcare #veterans need, including access to medications, and increases the risks of #suicide.
While there’s no single cause for #suicide, it most often occurs when stressors and health issues converge. #Depression and substance abuse are known to be significant risk factors. #Suicide is also disproportionately more likely to occur among #men and people with easy access to firearms — a fairly succinct description of #veterans as a group. This correlation also applies to #female #veterans, who are 2.2 times more likely to commit #suicide than #women who did not serve, according to a 2019 study (the rate among male #veterans is 1.3 times as high as that among #men who did not serve).
Clearly, this once-in-a-lifetime #pandemic brings with it a whole host of challenges that are making the delivery of all kinds of critical services harder than ever. But it would be especially tragic if, after so many years of hard work by so many in finally bringing attention and desperately-needed progress to the issue of #veteran #suicide, we were to fail these most deserving of #Americans at a time when they need our help most.
Federal, state, and local agencies serving #veterans need to prioritize finding resources and methods that will not only help #veterans navigate their way through this crisis but be there for them when it is finally over. In that effort, top priorities should include providing financial security expressly for #veterans via the extension of CARES Act aid programs, as well as enhanced, proactive outreach, both immediately and into the #pandemic’s aftermath, since health experts warn that some of the worst impacts to #mentalhealth tend not to manifest themselves fully until after the immediate crisis has passed.
America’s #veterans have more than earned our respect and gratitude for helping our country through previous times of uncertainty and danger. The least we can do now is help them through this one.
Josh Newman is a veteran advocate, former U.S. Army Officer, and a former member of the California State Senate, where he chaired the Committee on Veterans Affairs. Currently, Josh runs his own small business, ArmedForce2Workforce, which assists young veterans in Southern California in their career pursuits.