The American Legion has been at the forefront of helping to prevent military and veteran suicides. During The American Legion’s 2009 National Convention, the Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Division developed a comprehensive suicide prevention and referral program for the National VA&R Commission. The VA&R Commission invited Dr. Janet Kemp, VA’s national suicide prevention coordinator, to facilitate training for 83 VA&R Commission members in attendance. After the convention, VA&R Commission members and volunteers developed American Legion state, district and post training programs to provide referrals for veterans in distress with VA’s National Suicide Prevention Hotline (800-273-8255). The American Legion currently has more than 60 posts with active Suicide Prevention and Referral programs.
In recent years, VA also implemented local suicide prevention coordinators at all of the 154 VA medical centers nationwide. In December 2009, The American Legion worked with Kemp and Laura Balun, VA Chief of Voluntary Service, to develop a volunteer position description where volunteers can register at local VA medical centers Voluntary Service offices to work with the VA medical center’s local suicide prevention coordinator. Currently, VA is recruiting for volunteers to distribute suicide prevention materials in Albany, NY; St. Louis, Mo.; Miami; Atlanta and Phoenix. The volunteer position allows the local suicide prevention to provide the volunteers with materials that can be shared with the state, district and local posts. The volunteer can also help VA connect with the VSO leadership to schedule Suicide Prevention and Referral training.
The American Legion wants to hear from member volunteers and posts that have active suicide prevention programs. If you have helped coordinate suicide prevention and referral training, distributed literature to departments, districts or posts or registered as a VA volunteer and are working with the facility’s local suicide prevention coordinator, please e-mail Jacob Gadd.
For more information about VA’s Suicide Prevention programs, click here. To assist with Suicide Prevention referrals and help VA distribute program materials, please contact your local VA Medical Center’s Voluntary Service Office or register online here.