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Suicide prevention a top priority for VA (Veteran's Affairs).

“I’ve lost more friends to suicide than combat,” Nathan Rudolph, peer support specialist for Veterans Affairs, said at a town hall for suicide prevention awareness in Grand Junction last week.

Rudolph spoke to the struggles he’s had returning home from the military, not just personally, but also among the men and women with whom he served. He said it can be difficult to understand and come to grips with how military training translates to the civilian sector.

“We’re taught in the military that any sign of weakness is frowned upon and that includes getting help with mental health,” Rudolph said. “If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t help others, that’s the complete opposite of the military. In the military, we’re taught to lay down our lives for others.”

A common problem he’s seen is the stigma associated with suicide and talking about suicide, particularly among the veteran population. Veterans tend to stow it away and move on.

“That doesn’t really work,” he said.

Rudolph said veterans can have a tendency to not deal with their pain and push it down and have the idea that somehow getting help makes you weak.

VA Western Colorado Health Care System Suicide Prevention Coordinator Rainy Reaman said it’s weaker for veterans not to ask for help when they need it, than it is for them to ask in the first place.

“When we speak plainly about suicide, it doesn’t make someone want to commit suicide,” she said.

Having these conversations helps decrease the stigma around mental health and suicide, which seems to be particularly prevalent in the veteran community. As such, the VA partnered with the Rocky Mountain Gun Club for Thursday’s town hall to better reach the intended audience. A booth was set up outside the gun club, Western Colorado’s largest public indoor shooting facility, with the intention of reaching military veterans and gun owners and, more specifically, military veteran gun owners. Included was information and directions to the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255.

“One of the top priorities and missions of the VA is suicide prevention,” Reaman said. “Our goal is to help all vets but we can’t do it alone. Our research shows that almost 70% of veteran suicide deaths are the result of firearm injury.”

She said Thursday’s town hall served to provide life-saving, important information to a community that needed to hear it the most.

“It’s not safe for someone in an emotional crisis to have access to a firearm. This event was a way to get this information out there and to support veterans in the community,” Reaman added.

Rudolph said 377 people watched Facebook Live videos broadcast on the Rocky Mountain Gun Club Facebook page on Thursday.


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