VA taking aim at veteran suicides

Suicide prevention coordinator Kate Mostkoff and clinical psychologist Mia Ihm, PhD, at the Manhattan VA (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot

From January 22-25, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has been engaging in a nationwide suicide prevention effort, with the various facilities, including Manhattan VA on East 23rd Street, hoping to reach out to veterans who wouldn’t normally show up at their doors.

This is because 20 veterans die by suicide each day and out of those 20, 14 haven’t been seeking services at the VA.

Meanwhile, the VA has developed the most comprehensive suicide prevention program in the entire country, according to suicide prevention coordinator Kate Mostkoff and Mia Ihm, PhD, a clinical psychologist, who both work at the Manhattan hospital. A VA system-wide veterans crisis line gets hundreds of calls each day, with on average two or three of those calls being routed to the Manhattan VA on weekdays, and even more on weekends. This makes the Manhattan campus one of the busier recipients of such calls and the hospital is required to respond to those calls within 24 hours. The line, staffed by veterans and family members, can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1).

When responding to callers, it’s usually recommended that the caller follow up to determine if the problem is PTSD related. “Sometimes a hospital stay is required,” said Mostkoff, “usually brief” at a mental health outpatient clinic for common problems such as substance abuse, anxiety or depression.

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