Veterans Day 2021: Supporting the mental health of Central California veterans

The fight on the battlefield may have ended, but oftentimes veterans return home to fight a silent battle.
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The fight on the battlefield may have ended, but oftentimes veterans return home to fight a silent battle.

As the community celebrates Central California veterans on Thursday, efforts are also underway to support their mental well-being. There are several services in Fresno County aimed at helping our country's heroes.

"Stigma around mental health is a huge barrier for people to access mental health services, and with our veterans, it's probably even more prevalent," said Ahmad Bahrami, with the Fresno County Department of Behavioral Health.

Bahrami said there's been a silver lining from the COVID-19 pandemic: more people are focused on their mental health.

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Right now, his agency is focused on letting veterans and their families know it's okay to reach out for help.

"There's nothing wrong with them," he said. "They've experienced something that was abnormal, and they're just trying to cope with it as best as they can."

Meanwhile, at the Fresno VA medical center, veteran and licensed clinician Derric Brown is working to address suicide amongst veterans.

He is currently the community engagement coordinator for the VA's suicide prevention program.
According to Brown, he plans to assess what resources are available outside the VA - plus, identify local service members and their families, and connect them with services.

According to a recent VA study, of the 17 veterans who die by suicide every day, nine never received VA services.

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Brown said the final priority is to assist with care transitions.

"When we intervene during that transition, from one level of care to the next, we're more likely to reduce the risk of suicidality," he said.

The conversation regarding the mental health of veterans is continuing in Fresno County.

On November 15, Brown will join a virtual veterans panel discussion, hosted by the Department of Behavioral Health.

If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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