(WTVO) — The Department of Veterans Affairs said that U.S. Military veterans can now get free emergency care at any health care facility if they are in a suicidal crisis.
It is the latest policy in an effort to reduce the veteran suicide rate. Everyone is different in what they need or want, and while this policy will be a great resource, this is a complex issue.
There is not a solution that will work for everyone.
“Picture yourself at a summer camp, right? Everything’s going really awesome, really great, you make the best friends of your life for that summer then all of the sudden, boom, it’s gone, and then you throw them into the world and they’re expected to act as if nothing really happened,” said U.S. Marine Corps veteran Jerry Oleson.
The mental health of veterans was a problem long before there was a name for it. They deal with post-traumatic stress disorder and a difficult transition back to life after service.
“The same problems that everyday people have are the same problems that veterans have,” said Bob Ryder, superintendent of the Veterans Assistance Commission of Boone County. “They’re different in that many of them have been to combat, and they’ve seen things that people have no idea what it’s like to be in combat and how difficult it can be.”
About 44 veterans commit suicide each day. Beginning Tuesday, veterans in a mental health crisis can get free emergency care at any health care facility.
Oleson said that feelings of pride, embarrassment or being ashamed can make it hard to get them the help they need. He said that putting the idea in their head is a place to start.
“There’s some extraordinary veterans out there that will be more humble and have more pride than anyone I’ve ever seen,” he said. “Never ask them, ‘hey, do you want to go here?’ Just suggest it. They’ll go on their terms. That’s just how we are.”
Every county in Illinois has a Veterans Assistance Commission. It is often a faster and simpler way to get help, compared to the federal VA.
There is no easy solution to this complex problem, but there is a far simpler answer on how to make a veteran’s day.
“Simply say, ‘thank you for your service,'” Ryder said. “That’s the recognition that all veterans deserve, and it really makes a difference in their lives.”
Oleson said that, at the end of the day, they just want to be heard and loved.
“Check in on them,” he said. “You know, ‘hey, how you doing? How’s everything going?’ Just those small things make a world a difference.”
Vets can dial ‘988’ followed by pressing ‘1’ to quickly connect to support at any time. Veteran communities or chaplains at fire and police departments are also ways to get help.
Volunteers can drive vets to appointments, but the best thing a person can do is to listen to them.