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VA officials pushing veterans to seek help amid rising concern for mental health issues

Wilmington VA
Wilmington VA(WECT)
Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 6:38 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 10, 2021 at 6:40 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Concerns are rising for veterans after American troops were recently pulled out of Afghanistan.

Officials at the VA in Wilmington have seen an increase in veterans utilizing services there, but they’re expressing concerns for those who aren’t seeking treatment for mental health issues like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression, or even suicidal thoughts.

The average number of veteran suicides has decreased slightly in recent years, but after recent events in Afghanistan, local veterans and VA officials fear that might change.

“We have to do something about this . . . now with the Afghanistan issue, these numbers are gonna change, but they’re not gonna change in a positive way, they’re gonna go up,” said veteran and founder of Save A Vet Now.

Many veterans are recalling traumatic events during their time of service, but local VA officials are pushing for those veterans to reach out for help. For perspective, officials say that more than half of veterans that take their own life didn’t seek help or treatment.

Alexander Renelt, Assistant Chief of Psychology for the Wilmington VA said “there’s a lot of compounded stress for our veterans, and we’re certainly seeing that. Veterans are showing a range of emotions, and we are doing our best to help and make sure there is no wrong doer. You can call, come in, someone is gonna get them to the right person.”

The VA is working to get every veteran the help they need. “The VA has been engaging in a lot of the community partnerships and outreach to try and stay ahead and be proactive instead of reactive,” said Renelt.

While more veterans have walked through the doors of the VA recently, officials say that they’re focusing on how they can best use their resources to get every person the help they need.

Healthcare professionals at the VA said it can sometimes be as simple as talking to someone and getting connected to the right person to save a veterans life. The goal--to find a long term solution, instead of relying on temporary actions to numb the pain.

“Get them to understand that there’s hope, that asking for help is a sign of courage and strength, certainly not a sign of weakness,” Vivaldi said.

The Veterans Crisis Line provides 24/7 support for Veterans: https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/ or 800-273-8255. For more information about services available through the VA, click here.

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