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Roseburg VA puts focus on suicide prevention awareness during COVID-19

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started in March, staff told KEZI 9 News that they’ve had a 16% increase in calls to their veteran crisis line.

Posted: Sep 1, 2020 5:35 PM

ROSEBURG, Ore. -- September is Suicide Prevention Month, and the staff at the Roseburg Veterans Affairs (VA) hope to use this time to emphasize the importance of mental health to their patients.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started in March, staff told KEZI 9 News that they’ve had a 16% increase in calls to their veteran crisis line.

Suicide prevention coordinator Kurt Rossbach said it’s likely due to the pandemic. He said some veterans, especially those who are considered high suicide risk, have struggled with isolation.

However, he said Suicide Prevention Month is a great time to reach out to those who are struggling and those who don’t know where to get help.

“Veterans don’t live at the VA,” said Rossbach. “They live in those communities across southern Oregon that we are providing services to. We needed to increase our services for them.”

Rossbach said they’ve increased their outreach since the pandemic started. They’re making regular phone calls to veterans to make sure they’re doing all right mentally.

“We are trying to talk with those veterans, call them back, get them connected to those services they need,” he said.

Hospital director Keith Allen said he is proud of the outreach the Roseburg VA is doing. He said it’s the best way to let a veteran know that someone is there for them.

“Suicide is something that we should be able to prevent,” said Allen. “I think we need people to know.”

The Roseburg VA will be hosting a virtual mental health summit on Sept. 24. Rossbach said there will be mental health experts and community resources available for those who need it.

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