Durham, NC (WTVD) — Dennis Horn served in the United States Army for eight years, including combat in the Gulf War. His influence in the military was felt immediately, but it took Horn years to realize exactly what he was going through.
“I knew there were some things, let’s call them the leftovers from basic training and military service and then deployment,” he said.
Horn thought his age was also a factor. After he returned to Japan after the war, he was 20 years old.
“I’m young. So I think this is just a small part of what I was going through mentally growing up,” he added.
But that was not all. Horn was experiencing dreams and nightmares. He said it was PTSD.
“With the help of a psychiatrist and a therapist, I was able to connect these pieces together,” Horn said. That’s why I feel this way. I admit I had suicidal thoughts.”
At that moment, he called the Veterans Crisis Hotline.
“I remember going on vacation with my family and I just had to get away and do some stealing and I thought about the hotline. I used the hotline as a resource. and I was able to talk to them,” Horn said. reflected. “I didn’t know there was a resource to reach out to, which was a huge relief.”
According to veterans, the suicide rate among veterans in 2020 was 57.3% higher than those with no military service. Now, the Department of Veterans Affairs is launching new policies to help address the mental health emergency of veterans.
Beginning Tuesday, January 17, veterans experiencing a suicidal crisis are eligible for free emergency medical care at the VA or at private facilities.
“I am so grateful that they are beginning to recognize the need for these mental health services for veterans,” said veteran Shirley Monroe, who served seven years in the military.
The VA already provides emergency suicide treatment, but under this policy, veterans do not have to pay for treatment or copayments.
- Pay or reimburse eligible individuals for emergency suicide treatment, transportation, and follow-up care at VA or non-VA facilities.
- Make appropriate referrals for care after the emergency suicide care period.
- Determine eligibility for other VA services and benefits.
- Refer eligible individuals to appropriate VA programs and benefits following a period of emergency suicide care.
Having worked in the mental health field after serving in the military, Monroe knows firsthand how beneficial this resource can be for veterans in crisis.
“A lot of people don’t understand that there is trauma. When you have to leave your family, there is trauma in your family,” she said. “It’s very difficult. The military is not an easy life for many, so we need these services.”
The new policy is considered a key initiative in the VA’s Decade National Strategy to Prevent Suicide among Veterans.
“Mental health has definitely been taboo for years. I think this generation is now moving to the idea that this is what we need. That’s fine,” Horn added.
Veterans Affairs has made accessing the Veterans Crisis Line even more user-friendly by dialing 988 and pressing 1 to connect to 24/7 crisis support.
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