“We are the canary in the coal mine” when it comes to mental health, said Veterans Administration Secretary Bob McDonald in an interview with Psychiatric News. “Mental health care is a problem in this country–it’s not just a problem for those who have suffered PTSD or traumatic brain injury in combat; it is a problem for football players, hockey players, police officers, and many others. We have got to get ahead as a society on mental health.”
McDonald spoke to reporters after a speech to the AMA’s House of Delegates, which held the opening session of its 2014 Interim Meeting yesterday in Dallas. During his speech to delegates outlining efforts to reform the VA in the wake of publicity about substandard care and unusually long waits for appointments in some VA facilities, McDonald specifically addressed the need for better psychiatric care, including increased reimbursement for psychiatrists. Regarding reimbursement, psychiatry won a recent victory that will bring their pay to more competitive levels effective November 30.
“As I’ve gone around the country, I’ve discovered we don’t have enough students in medical school studying mental health,” he said. “Why? Insurance reimbursement rates are low, and there’s a stigma in society about mental health.
“The good news is that at the VA we know about mental health,” McDonald said. “We are on the cutting edge of mental health….It’s a big issue, and as a society we have to get on top of it.”
For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Psychiatrists’ Pay to Rise at Veterans Health Administration.”
It can be scary when a friend or loved one is thinking about suicide. Let us help. If someone you know has any warning signs we encourage you to call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) so that you can find out what resources are available in your area. Your call is routed to the Lifeline center closest to your area code. The local crisis center may have resources such as counseling or in-patient treatment centers for your friend or family member. Most importantly, please encourage them to call the Lifeline.
How To Be Helpful to Someone Who Is Threatening Suicide
- Be direct. Talk openly and matter-of-factly about suicide.
- Be willing to listen. Allow expressions of feelings. Accept the feelings.
- Be non-judgmental. Don’t debate whether suicide is right or wrong, or whether feelings are good or bad. Don’t lecture on the value of life.
- Get involved. Become available. Show interest and support.
- Don’t dare him or her to do it.
- Don’t act shocked. This will put distance between you.
- Don’t be sworn to secrecy. Seek support.
- Offer hope that alternatives are available but do not offer glib reassurance.
- Take action. Remove means, such as guns or stockpiled pills.
- Get help from persons or agencies specializing in crisis intervention and suicide prevention.
- Be Aware of Feelings
Many people at some time in their lives think about suicide. Most decide to live because they eventually come to realize that the crisis is temporary and death is permanent. On the other hand, people having a crisis sometimes perceive their dilemma as inescapable and feel an utter loss of control. These are some of the feelings and thoughts they experience:
Can’t stop the pain
Can’t think clearly
Can’t make decisions
Can’t see any way out
Can’t sleep, eat or work
Can’t get out of depression
Can’t make the sadness go away
Can’t see a future without pain
Can’t see themselves as worthwhile
Can’t get someone’s attention
Can’t seem to get control
If you experience these feelings, get help! If someone you know exhibits these symptoms, offer help!
This content was developed by the American Association of Suicidology.