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VA, local healthcare leaders coming together to combat veteran suicide

West Michigan leaders are coming together to combat veteran suicide in our area.

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3)- It may shock you to hear twenty veterans a day commit suicide. It may shock you even more to hear that of those twenty who commit suicide, fourteen of those veterans are not receiving VA services. That's according to a recent study by the Department of Veteran's Affairs.

That's why the Battle Creek Veterans Affairs Medical Center is teaming up with local healthcare leaders and community organizations to combat the problem of veteran's suicide. Over 170 representatives will be at the 5th Annual Mental Health Summit that will have a special focus on veteran suicide.

"The purpose is for us to reach out to our local partners in the community, getting them on board with us in providing great care to our veterans," said Russell Bell, Recovery Coordinator for the Battle Creek VA. "There''s no easy way to say, 'This is how you fix this.' That's why we're approaching this with a united front."

Bell said says that soldiers returning home sometimes carry home with them the military mentality to "tough it out" through their problems, and often times don't realize they can ask for help with their issues. He says, if you have a friend or family member who is a veteran who you notice is more reserved than before, or showing signs of depression, it's OK to ask them if they've had suicidal thoughts.

"The fact of the matter is, without us, we need to be there to take care of those who are willing to put their lives on the line to keep this country as great as it is," said Bell.

If you know someone who needs help right now,you can tell them about the Veteran's services hotline, it's staffed 24-hours a day, their phone number is (800) 273-8255 at any time. There's also more information and a 24-hour chat line on the VA's website here.

There's also other ways to help. Bell said there are other volunteer opportunities out there with the VA to help veterans. Those opportunities range from medical professionals donating their time treat veterans, or something more simple that anyone can do, like spending a few hours just talking and visiting with veterans, or dropping off baked goods, treats, or candy.

You can call the Battle Creek VA for more information at (888) 214-1247.

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