Raising awareness for mental health

Published 9:40 pm Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Walk looks to bring attention to veterans’ suicide, depression rates


The Veterans Affairs Administration estimates 20 veterans commit suicide every day.

The Albert Lea VA Clinic hosted its first Suicide Prevention and Awareness Stand Down Walk on Wednesday to bring awareness to the issue.

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Participants walked around the outside of Skyline Plaza in rainy conditions to mark the necessity of addressing veterans’ mental health issues.

“If we can bring awareness to that issue, if we can help to show that there are resources available, that there is help available for people that are considering suicide — if we can even prevent one suicide, it helps to decrease that number, obviously. So the more people that we can reach and educate and show that we are here to support them as a clinic and as a community  — that’s what we are here for,” said Danielle Elg, clinic operations director.

The Albert Lea clinic offers mental health services and sees veterans with mental health disorders, such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“It is something that as a community we need to be aware of and be supportive of,” Elg said.

She said suicide affects a majority of the population.

“There isn’t someone that hasn’t been affected by suicide, whether it be a friend, a family member, a veteran that they know,” she said. “It affects everyone in so many different ways, and we need to bring awareness to the issue and try to prevent as many suicides as we can.” 

Vietnam War veteran John Severtson said he is a patient at the clinic and is on the patient advisory board.

“This is a good cause,” he said.

“It’s too bad that guys go off to war and then come back and fight it the whole time they’re stateside.”

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, approximately 18.5 percent of service members returning from Iraq or Afghanistan deal with PTSD or depression, and 19.5 percent report having a traumatic brain injury during deployment.

According to the administration, approximately 50 percent of returning service members needing treatment for mental health conditions seek it, but only slightly more than half who receive treatment receive adequate care.

The veterans crisis line is 1-866-687-7382.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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