Department of Veterans Affairs offers new mental health course to bring suicide awareness among veterans

The VA is partnering with the Mental Health Association of New Jersey to teach mental health first aid to veterans, their families and current servicemembers in hopes of to bring down the number of veterans and servicemembers who die by suicide.

News 12 Staff

Sep 16, 2021, 3:02 AM

Updated 940 days ago

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September is Suicide Prevention Month and there's a jarring number of veterans dying by suicide.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is looking to bring awareness not just in September, but all year-round.
The VA is partnering with the Mental Health Association of New Jersey to teach mental health first aid to veterans, their families and current servicemembers in hopes of to bring down the number of veterans and servicemembers who die by suicide.
According to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, over 45,000 Americans died by suicide in 2019. At least 6,000 of those Americans were veterans and the VA hopes to bring that number down through awareness and a different type of first aid course.
"Mental health first aid teaches us the skills to identify someone who's experiencing a crisis and how to respond and how to help them out," says VA Suicide Prevention Coordinator Bradley Jacobs.
While there are less veterans who died by suicide because they make up a smaller number of the population, they are dying by suicide at a higher rate than non-veterans.
"Veterans are a particular risk," Jacob adds. "One of the reasons they are a particular risk is that their access and knowledge of using firearms."
According to the National Veteran Suicide Prevention annual report, firearms were the method of suicide for 70% of male veterans and 43% of female veterans.
"The VA really wants to encourage veterans to learn how to secure their firearms so they are safe, and they can't be easily used when someone's experiencing a suicidal crisis," Jacobs says.
Joseph Diacheysn is an Afghanistan war veteran and served from 2007 to 2013. He now leads a support group for Afghan war vets and says they're crucial in helping veterans return to civilian life and could help bring down suicide statistics.
"I'm hoping that the post-9/11 veterans are able to do more things like this and eventually have a way for guys and girls to get together and be able to provide that peer support," Diacheysn says.
The mental health first aid course is an eight-hour the course that is offered nationally and it's being offered free to New Jersey veterans.


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