Vet says VA program stopped him from dying by suicide

Julia LeDoux
September 25, 2019 - 10:19 am
Project Life Force


An Iraq combat vet says a Department of Veterans Affairs clinician saved his life.

The lifesaving move didn’t come at an emergency room or inside an operating suite – but at a classroom at the Bronx VA. That’s where Dr. Marianne Goodman leads Project Life Force, which gives veterans an opportunity to come together and talk about their problems, challenges and wanting to end their lives.

One of the program’s participants is Wilfredo Santos, an Army mechanic who deployed to Iraq during 2008 and 2009. He credits Project Life Force with helping to save his life in a VA blog post.

“We communicate with other veterans in the room to offer support and generate ideas on how to distract yourself so you don’t hurt yourself,” he said. “We truly use our suicide safety plans and make them part of our everyday lives.”

While some experts fear that having suicidal patients come together to share their feelings could increase their chances of taking their own lives, Goodman says that’s not the case.

“Veterans no longer feel alone,” she said in the blog post. “They feel someone understands their impulses and urges.”

Santos is so grateful that he asked his congressman, Rep. Jose Serrano, to have a flag flown over the Capitol in Goodman’s honor.

“You often hear negative news about the VA, specifically related to suicide,” Santos said. “We don’t recognize the hard work and achievements of our providers, which is why I wanted to honor Dr. Goodman. Sometimes we need to recognize good work in the news.”

Project Life Force can be found at VA sites in Kansas City, Albany, and Syracuse. It is also being tested in a VA-funded randomized clinical trial that includes 265 vets at the Bronx and Philadelphia VA medical centers.

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Reach Julia LeDoux:

For more information on potential warning signs of suicide, click here.

If you or someone you know needs help, contact the Veteran Crisis Line 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255 (select option 1 for a VA staff member). Veterans, service members or their families also can text 838255 or go to