Monday, October 26, 2009

VA, DoD Host National Mental Health Summit



Shinseki, Gates Address Unprecedented Forum



WASHINGTON (Oct. 26, 2009) - The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and
the Department of Defense (DoD) are hosting a first-of-its-kind national
summit to address the mental health care needs of America's military
personnel, families and Veterans, harnessing the programs, resources and
expertise of both departments to deal with the aftermath of the
battlefield.



"This is about doing what is best for those who serve this country and
using every federal, state and community asset to do it," said Secretary
Shinseki. "We're proud of the people and the organizations who have
stepped up today to make sure everyone who fought for this country gets
a fighting chance for a sound mind and an independent life."



The summit, which opened today at the Capital Hilton in Washington,
D.C., invited mental health experts from both departments, Congress, the
president's cabinet and more than 57 non-government organizations to
discuss an innovative, wide-ranging public health model for enhancing
mental health for returning service members, Veterans, and their
families.



Striking down the stigma associated with the mental health risks of
service in a combat zone is among the priorities of the joint VA-DoD
campaign on mental health for service members, Veterans and families.
Various studies show a large incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder
occurs during the lifetime of many combat Veterans.



A final report following the summit will summarize policies, programs
and practices that show promise for enhancing the well-being and care
for individual service members, Veterans, and their families.  VA and
DoD view mental health in returning service members and Veterans as a
matter of public health and an opportunity to engage in a broad response
throughout America.



VA operates the largest mental health program in the nation.  VA has
bolstered its mental health capacity to serve combat Veterans by adding
thousands of new professionals to its rolls in the last four years.  The
department also has established a suicide prevention hotline
(1-800-273-TALK) and Web site available for online chat at
www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/Veterans