Veterans need more mental health support

In a move of unprecedented transparency, U.S. Army officials announced Thursday that 24 veterans have reportedly committed suicide in January.

Seven of the deaths are confirmed to be suicides and 17 are still under investigation.

‘If (the number of suspected suicides) holds true, it would mean that self-inflicted deaths surpassed the 16 combat deaths reported in all branches of the armed forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and other nations considered part of the global war on terror last month,’ Associated Press writer Pauline Jelinek reported.

The Army’s new relationship with media may stem from the shock of an annual report released Jan. 28, confirming 2008 as having the highest record of veteran suicides.

While affected veterans may appreciate the Army’s candidness and intent to reform mental health services, efforts seem to be a little too late, and a bit retroactive.

An estimated 20 percent of veterans have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which can lead to suicide. UH Veterans Services Office (VSO) program manager Allen Grundy said while there is not a program for assisting UH veterans with PTSD at the moment, the VSO is considering hiring a PTSD counselor.

‘How do we know if a student will be suicidal? We don’t,’ Grundy said. ‘So we have to put a program in place.’

UH veterans on campus can receive mental health assistance at UH Counseling and Psychology Services, but they must travel to Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Assistance Medical Center to receive help with PTSD-specific issues. Bringing in a specialist to assist the campus would be a move in the right direction.

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