May 15, 2008, Chemung County, NY – May is Mental Health Awareness month in Chemung County and in honoring that tradition, the Bath VA Medical Center is teaming up with county leaders to inform war veterans of available programs.
“What we’re trying to do is get the word out about our suicide prevention lifeline for veterans and about other suicide prevention efforts we have in place,” said Karen M. Aikman, suicide prevention coordinator.
The Bath VA serves 700 veterans in the Southern Tier. Officials there say the emotional and physical wounds soldiers endure in combat takes a major toll on their mental state.
“When you get out, you’re on your own. No one is there to tell you what to. People that have been overseas can’t even explain things they’ve seen to other people,” said war veteran Mike Lehmann.
So the center has developed a program called Operation Save, which teaches vets about the signs and symptoms of suicide.
“Depression is something that can really be a factor. Educating people that may be suicidal, can get treatment and treatment works,” Aikman said.
The informational meeting did not just focus on mental health. Veterans also got the opportunity to learn about health benefits and property taxes, things they need to ask about.
“Many veterans don’t take advantage of all the benefits they are eligible for and we’re taking the message on the road. Educate the veterans, outreach to the veterans,” said Carl E. Haneline, of the Bath VA Medical Center Outreach.
A message this veteran said soldiers need to hear.
“Today is really good because it shows people that just got out and people who have been out for a while all of the help they can get,” Lehmann said.