Biloxi VA weighs-in on suicide prevention bill - - The News for South Mississippi

Biloxi VA weighs-in on suicide prevention bill


The VA's suicide hotline receives 1,000 calls a day. President Barack Obama  has described veterans suicide in the US an epidemic.

That's why on Thursday he signed into law the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans or SAV Act. Those who provide behavioral help to veterans welcome the legislature.

Dr. Linda Cox is the transitional care program manager at the Biloxi VA. With 18 years of experience in the mental health industry and five and a half years at the VA, Cox said the reason veterans commit suicide is complex.

"It's a complicated issue. So you can't pin point to any one thing. In general, I would say people, who have been to war, and have seen all that death and suffering are at  an increased risk for deep depression. And we know that depression leads to people being suicidal.
They are a an increased risk for addictive behavior," said Dr. Cox.

She said that addictive behavior is correlated with suicide. Another invisible wound of war is PTSD. One Vietnam veteran we spoke to said he wishes his two brothers who are also veterans would have had the same resources offered today.

"They just felt like people didn't understand them with what they went through and the support group at that time wasn't there. So any support group we receive now for our veterans is highly welcomed," said veteran John Lunar. 

Dr. Cox said suicide prevention is a big focus at the Biloxi VA and the newly signed SAV act will only help.

"We've known it's a problem. We work very hard at it. We already have 300 suicide prevention coordinators throughout the nation working at the VA. However, this bill helps us have more resources to help us refine what we're doing, to increase what we're doing, to deepen what were doing. And hopefully will allow us to attract more psychiatrists," Dr. Cox said.

The SAV Act would establish incentives for more psychiatrists to practice at VA facilities and require annual evaluations of current mental health programs at the VA and Defense department.

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