Increasing Veterans’ Access to Mental Health and Social Supports
December 13, 2021
The number of veteran suicide deaths throughout the country has risen steadily since 2001, with an average of 17 veterans dying by suicide each day.
On top of these sobering suicide rates, overall veteran mortality rates have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, the second half of 2021 was an exceptionally difficult and traumatic period for the post-9/11 generation of veterans: the twentieth anniversary of 9/11 was triggering for many and came on the heels of a violent and chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. After the Taliban takeover, 90% of Afghanistan war veterans with a history of mental illness experienced new or worsening mental health symptoms, including depression and thoughts of suicide. Access to mental health care and social support are essential elements of an evidence-based suicide prevention approach. In 2021, NYHealth awarded a grant to the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Center (MFC) at NYU Langone, as part of a larger project with New York Cares, Western New York Heroes, and Veterans Outreach Center, to provide community-based mental health and peer support, as well as screenings and support service referrals to veterans across New York State.
Under this grant, MFC will provide high-quality telemental health services to post-9/11 veterans in hard-to-reach, under-resourced areas of New York State. It will conduct targeted outreach to identify veterans in need of mental health services, with a focus on Afghanistan war veterans. It will also increase the capacity of its patient intake staff and track demographic data, health outcomes, and patient satisfaction of all clients served.