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Help for veterans experiencing thoughts of suicide

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

ACMC Behavioral Medicine Unit now a treatment option

The mental health of U.S. military veterans has gained much more focus over the last several years. Statistics from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) show that 1.9 million veterans sought out mental health treatment in 2019. In 2020 alone, 6,126 veterans died by suicide and an additional 5,000 were hospitalized monthly with acute mental health issues.

A recent policy change by the VA means that veterans who find themselves in a suicidal crisis can now seek inpatient care at the Behavioral Medicine Unit at ACMC. Any veteran – regardless of VA enrollment status - will have up to 30 days of inpatient treatment and up to 90 days of follow-up outpatient care covered.

ACMC Family Medicine provider Adeola Fakolade, MD, worked with veterans prior to joining ACMC. While she primarily focused on dealing with hypertension and diabetes, she said the addressing and treating mental health for those who served in the military – regardless of whether or not they saw combat – is vitally important.

“The symptoms of mental health issues are not always obvious. Problems sleeping, changes in appetite, or a desire to be alone, can easily be dismissed. However, these symptoms should never be ignored as they can be early signs of mental health issues,” she said.

More serious symptoms of mental health issues range from a recurring sense of nervousness to self-harm.

John Engelmann, RN, BSN, MBA, Nurse Manager for the Behavioral Medicine Unit at ACMC, said veterans who need mental health treatment don’t have to wait for pre-approval from the VA if they are having suicidal thoughts.

“Our country owes a debt of gratitude to those who have served. This is a welcome change that will allow our veterans to receive the care they need quicker, and in many cases, closer to family and friends,” he said.

ACMC’s inpatient behavioral medicine unit helps veterans and others address their mental health through structured, therapeutic activities; counseling; and education designed to teach coping strategies.

Any U.S. veteran who finds themselves in a suicidal crisis can come to the ACMC Emergency Department or call the 24-hour referral line for the Behavioral Medicine Unit at ACMC, 440-997-6641.