Fargo VA Working to Prevent Suicide Among Veterans

National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255, Veteran's Crisis Hotline: 1-800-273-8255 (press 1)

FARGO, N.D. — They’re the people who put their lives on the line to serve our country. It’s not uncommon for veterans to take their own lives when they come back home.

In order for Keith Huff to do his job in Iraq, he had to change the way he thought about life.

“I had to accept my own death. That was a real possibility. And if you didn’t accept it, you had a hard time doing your job so once you realize that today could be the day, and you have to deal with it and overcome it and move forward, when you come back, the idea of facing your own death isn’t that scary,” said Keith Huff, who served in Iraq.

Huff thought, at times, it would be easier to take his own life than live with the toll the war took on his mental health.

As he continued to suffer, it was his boss who finally helped free him from the pain.

“He was aware enough to know that on the outside everything was fine but on the inside, I was isolating, I was drinking and I was really going down the rabbit hole,” Huff said.

Huff sought out help at the Fargo VA and through the mental health services they offer, it helped him to finally start leading a normal life again.

But that’s not the case for everyone.

“There’s 123 people a day in the United States that are dying by suicide. Of those 123, about 20 of them are veterans. And there are a lot of those veterans who are not currently seeking care at the VA,” said Tammy Monsebroten, suicide prevention coordinator for the Fargo VA.

In 2018, the Fargo VA saw more than 500 veterans for same–day mental health appointments. The Fargo VA is trying to reduce these statistics by treating suicide as a public health issue. As of 2018, the hospital has five suicide prevention coordinators. Before that, there was one. Their goal is to educate the community so they can recognize the signs of depression and start having conversations with veterans who are suffering inside.

“A lot of that is educating our community members and stakeholders about the services we offer but also letting them know what we can provide to them with additional support and education too,” said Harold Lindsay, suicide prevention coordinator for the Fargo VA.

The VA offers everything from individual therapies to alternative medicine for veterans. Huff says his hope is that others struggling will learn from his own mistakes.

“Get over yourself. Ask for help. No one gets out of this alone. When you get so low that you can’t handle it yourself, it’s really hard to get over your ego and ask for help. But once you do, once you get out of your own way, life gets so much better,” Huff said.

If you or a someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, KVRR has both the national suicide hotline and the veterans crisis line on our website.

The Fargo VA also encourages veterans to apply for their services, whether you believe you will be covered or not.

Categories: Community, Health, Local News, North Dakota News