WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island state leaders want veterans struggling with their mental health to know: “It’s OK not to be OK.”
That’s the message of the state’s mental health awareness campaign, which encourages Rhode Islanders struggling with mental or behavioral health challenges to turn to BH Link, a behavioral health facility designed to provide immediate assistance to a person in crisis.
Kasim Yarn, Director of Rhode Island Office of Veterans Services, says he hopes veterans take heed of the campaign’s message and utilize other state resources.
“We are asking our veterans to take that first step, and my job as a director, I’m going to take two steps towards them to get these matters resolved,” Yarn said.
According to a 2016 analysis from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), an average of 20 veterans a day died from suicide in 2014.
The VA examined more than 55 million Veterans’ records from 1979 to 2014 from every state in the nation. The report concluded, at the time, Veterans accounted for 18% of all deaths from suicide among U.S. adults, which was a decrease from 22% in 2010.
In 2019, the VA released the National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report, which concluded nearly 17 veterans died by suicide per day in 2017, the latest year data is available.
“One veteran suicide is one too many,” Yarn said.
If you’re a veteran in crisis or concerned about one, there are VA responders standing by to help 24/7. The Veterans Crisis Line is free, anonymous, and confidential that is available to anyone.
You can call 1 (800) 273-8255 and press 1, text 838255, or chat online.
Yarn says Rhode Island Serves is another resource that coordinates care for Rhode Island’s active duty, veterans, and military-connected families.
The platform puts multiple providers into one network and helps veterans and military families with benefit counseling, finding caregivers, getting legal advice, assistance with unemployment and more.
Additionally, even though Veterans Day ceremonies will be altered due to the pandemic, Yarn says it won’t get in the way of honoring veterans and military families this year.
“Every day is Veterans Day, every day is honoring our military families,” Yarn said. “And thank you all for partnering together to honor our families, honor our military, honor our Veterans, honor our active duty, guard and reserve that are on the front lines, that are there supporting this response effort across this pandemic, while also serving abroad to protect this blessed nation of ours.”