Who knows you better than your battle buddy? Program reunites combat units to battle suicide

Elizabeth Howe
December 13, 2018 - 10:48 am

Photo courtesy of Staff Sgt. Steven Young

Of the many suicide prevention programs available to veterans, none focuses more heavily on the importance of peers than Operation Resiliency. The Independence Fund is partnering with the Veterans Health Administration Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention launch this pilot program and "aggressively combat" the issue of veteran suicide. 

Relatively unique to this program, Operation Resiliency will reunite entire military units for treatment. 

"I had one guy tell me, 'I literally went to hell with these men, so I can go on a yoga retreat or whatever you want if you think it will help them,’” Sarah Verardo, chief executive officer of The Independence Fund told Military Times. “They still want to support each other. And building on that trust is key to getting some of these veterans the help they need.”

RELATED: Find Help | Mental Health — Resources to help veterans in crisis

"Isolation and inactivity are some of the many risk factors, all of which are the new enemies of Post-9/11 veterans," Verardo said in a press statement. "Engagement is key. In partnership with the VA, we are launching Operation Resiliency to initially target specific military units with the highest suicide risks."

According to Military Times, Operation Resiliency's first retreat will be in April with members of Verardo's husband's unit, Bravo Company, 2-508 Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division.

RELATED: Suicide rates up for younger veterans

The program will also provide mental health and educational training retreats for at-risk veterans and their families before progressively transitioning them into other programs, such as adaptive sports, in order for them to regain their independence. 

"Our goal at VA is to prevent suicide among all 20 million veterans nationwide — even those who do not, and may never, come to VA for care," Dr. Keita Franklin, executive director of suicide prevention with OMHSP said. "To do that, we are working closely with important partners like The Independence Fund to expand our reach outside the facility walls, to deliver care and support to more at-risk veterans."

RELATED: The ‘needle hasn’t moved’ far or fast enough on suicide prevention efforts

Want to get more connected to the great stories and resources Connecting Vets has to offer? Click here and sign up for our weekly newsletter.