“I come from a strong military family. My dad is an Air Force Veteran, both of my grandfathers served in the Coast Guard and Air Force, and even my grandmother served as a corporal in the Army during World War II. They all played a big role in my wanting to work for the Department of Veterans Affairs. I started my career in crisis intervention. In 2014, I became the Suicide Prevention Coordinator for the Jacksonville, Florida catchment area which also includes area in South Georgia. There’s a large population of Veterans and active duty military in the area. I opted to take this position because I have the background for it and because I am dedicated to working with individuals who are in crisis, and I especially want to ensure all of our vets are linked with the many resources the VA has to offer. We know that on average, 14 of the 20 vets that complete suicide per day aren’t linked to the VA, and we need to change that. We offer mental health resources, homeless resources, substance abuse resources and in home care primary care and so much more.
“We get so many calls from the Veterans Crisis Line and from families that are concerned. It’s what we do. We field between 4-12 calls per day, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but over the year adds up to taking thousands of calls. In my time with the VA, there are so many cases I remember clearly, but one sticks out immediately.
“There was a gentleman who had a very serious suicide attempt. I remember his case details so well. We placed a high risk for suicide flag on his chart, which means that an individual is an imminent suicide risk. This ensures that they will have expedited appointments with mental health providers to during this critical time in their life. Just months after this attempt, a man approached me at an event and told me how much the VA had helped him. He gave just enough details about his case that I immediately knew it was him. Seeing him there, thriving, knowing that we had made the difference in his outcome, meant the world to me.
“I want people to know how much the VA has to offer and that there are so many resources available to connect them with. In September, we ran a campaign called ‘Be There’ for suicide prevention month. The idea is that ‘being there’ for our Veterans and service members is something anyone, and everyone, can do. But being there needs to go beyond September. Especially with the holidays approaching, whether it’s checking in on a neighbor or calling a friend or a family member to see how they’re doing, reaching out to that person and connecting them to the VA might just save their life.”