Representatives from an Indianapolis VA hospital, researchers and advocates gathered this week at WFYI to talk about access to mental health care for veterans, their caregivers and the barriers they may face.
Approximately 20 veterans die by suicide each day in the U.S. In Indiana, and across the country, veterans face an increased risk of suicide compared to the civilian population.
Panelists at WFYI discussed barriers to veterans receiving mental healthcare, including long transportation times, lack of insurance and stigma.
"A lot of people fear that their security clearence may be put in jeopardy, they may be viewed as weak for seeking treatment or they will be penalized in some way," said Christa Sutton, Roudebush VA Medical Center's suicide prevention case manager. "That is the case sometimes, so people hide it. I like to think the culture is changing."
Sutton said that even after someone leaves military life, these cultural conceptions can carry over. The VA is trying to change this.
Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, director of the Military Family Research Institute and the Center for Families, said members of the National Guard in Indiana are limited in the benefits they can receive. A rising suicide rate among this group is concerning, she adds.
"I think for National Guard folks, they are citizens most of the time ..." she said. "We have big parts of this state where there are shortages of providers where you have to drive really far. And National Guard folks face complicated transitions."
Several of the participants also joined Indiana Public Broadcasting's talkshow All IN to discuss these topics. Listen here.
Panelists Part 1:
- Jason Riddle - Roudebush VA Medical Center, mental health intensive case management
- Christa Sutton - Roudebush VA Medical Center, suicide prevention case manager
Panelists Part 2:
- Gordon Smith - CEO, Mras PTSD Recovery Program Inc.
- Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth - Purdue University, professor of human development and family studies, director of Military Family Research Institute and the Center for Families
- Brian Copes - CEO, HVAF of Indiana
- April Krowel, Ph.D. - HSSP, pyschologist at the Brain Center at Geist