VA Secretary McDonough Joins Carper, Coons, Blunt Rochester and Lt. Governor Hall Long at Wilmington VA Medical Center to Discuss Mental Health and Suicide Prevention

ELSMERE, Del.  — On Monday, Oct. 25, 2021, U.S. Senators Tom Carper, Chris Coons, and Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (all D-Del.) joined Lt. Governor Bethany Hall Long and Wilmington VA Medical Center Director Vince Kane for a discussion with U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough on mental health and suicide prevention in the veteran community.

The discussion was a part of Senator Carper’s annual Veterans Summit, which brings together representatives from veteran service organizations with legislative leaders to discuss how to better meet veterans’ needs. Following the discussion, leaders viewed the Flags for the Forgotten Soldiers memorial on the hospital campus.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, and the 11th in Delaware. The VA estimates that 20 veterans die from suicide every day. Mental health and crisis support services are critical for people showing signs of suicide risk in their thoughts or behavior. The VA’s Veterans Health Administration (VHA) has partnered with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) through a call to action for state and local communities to implement the 2018-2028 National Strategy for the Prevention of Veteran Suicide. The aim of the National Strategy is to prevent suicide among at-risk Service Members, Veterans, and their Families (SMVF) using a comprehensive public health approach. The National Strategy provides a framework for identifying priorities, organizing efforts, and contributing to a national focus on preventing and ending suicide among Veterans.

“Suicide prevention remains a top priority for me. It is reassuring to work alongside Delaware’s leadership at today’s Veterans Summit to further collaborate on ways to tackle this very challenging and important matter in hopes of ending Veteran suicide,” said Secretary McDonough. The number one takeaway today is that suicide is preventable. For any Veteran who is in crisis, please reach out to us. We are here for you and have the resources and tools to help immediately.”

“Having served 23 years in the U.S. Navy and Naval Reserves, I understand the sacrifices that the men and women of our military and their families have made to defend our country’s freedoms,” said Senator Carper. “We owe our veterans a debt of gratitude. That’s why, for over three decades I’ve hosted this discussion that brings together all sides of the table in order to better care for our veterans, and that care includes mental health services. I’m proud of the Wilmington VAMC and the state of Delaware for their work to bring better mental health services to Delaware veterans.”

“Our military veterans deserve the best mental health care services and suicide prevention programs, period,” said Senator Coons. “Too often, veterans in Delaware and across the country still face obstacles to getting the care that they’ve earned. That’s why I’m working to pass federal legislation to help our veterans and their families, and why I continue to work with my Senate colleagues to deliver on our promise to care for our veterans in a way that honors their service and sacrifice.”

“Every year, I’m honored to join Senator Carper and the Wilmington VA team for the annual Veterans Summit. Hearing directly from Delaware’s heroes who served us about how we can best serve them is critical to our work in Washington,” said Rep. Blunt Rochester. “From helping provide culturally competent care for our veterans to fighting to ensure that caretakers are able to accompany disabled veterans on flights – I have had the privilege of being able to take legislative action in Washington directly from our conversations in Wilmington. I also want to thank Secretary McDonough for taking time to come to Delaware to hear directly from our veterans.”

“Today I was honored to join the congressional delegation and U.S Secretary of Veterans Affairs, and leaders in Delaware and across the nation to discuss the importance of ensuring our veterans and families have the services that they need,” said Lt. Governor Bethany Hall-Long. “As the wife and daughter of a veteran, this sensitive and personal issue is very close to me. Our service members often bring home scars that are not visible and suffer in silence. It is estimated that 22 veterans die from suicide a day in the United States. We have to do better. I have been honored to launch with Governor Carney and the Wilmington VA the Governors Challenge which aims to end suicide among our veterans. Thank you to the partners including the Behavioral Health consortium who are actively taking steps to ensure our veterans and their families are taken care of.”

“The Wilmington VA is proud of the outstanding work of our staff to provide essential mental health care to our Veterans,” said Director Kane. “We are excited for our innovative partnership with the Governor and Lieutenant Governor to work together to raise awareness and prevent suicide among Veterans.”

Services are available for those who need help. Veterans can call the VA’s 24/7 National Crisis Line (1-800-273- 8255 and Press 1) or the Delaware Hope Line (1-833-9-HOPEDE).