HAMPTON, Va. - "Reaching out" isn't always as simple as it sounds, but a continual push from the Department of Veterans Affairs is making sure veterans don't carry their burdens alone.
"We have a strong emphasis on mental health and suicide prevention with our veteran population," said Shawn Alexander, chief of staff at the Hampton VA Medical Center.
Maninder Singh, chief of mental health for the center, said, "We have stressors in our lives. So even good things like marriages, getting a job, then bad things like losing a job, and of course, everything that's happening in the country right now. That can be overwhelming."
The end of the war in Afghanistan and the 20th anniversary of 9/11 are also overwhelming to veterans and service members. Because of that, the VA said call volume, virtual visits and in-person visits are up.
However, locally, they said there are practitioners and a team waiting to help.
"It's a team that has a psychiatrist, nurse practitioners and a social worker, and they can pretty much take care of any of those walk-in urgent concerns, same-day," Singh said.
These services will also be coming to the Southside. A new Community Based Outpatient Clinic is set to be built on the Chesapeake Regional Healthcare Campus, opening in 2024.
"Approximately 50% to 60% of our veterans are on the Southside, and with the construction with the tunnel, you know, we've been looking at the challenges of how we can meet that demand, so that means taking the services to them on the Southside," Alexander said.
For now, you can head to the "Reach Out" website. There you will find five ways to take action for your mental health, hear testimonials from other veterans and connect with local resources.
Alexander said, "We build services around making sure we have the resources available to our veterans when they need them."
The hospital's suicide prevention team is also partnering with the Hampton-Newport News Community Services Board to host the Shatter the Silence forum on September 17th. There will also be an interactive walk at Langley Air Force base on September 23rd and an online 9/11 remembrance ceremony.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. You can also visit Virginia's Suicide Prevention Resource Center or the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) Virginia.