Mental Health Bill to Provide Suicide Prevention Focused Resources for Veterans

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — This could be promising news for Virginia veterans battling mental health issues. The bill aims to focus on a bill that would create new suicide prevention to help veterans with mental health issues.

The legislation, presented by Del. Anne Ferrell Tata, will focus on creating a Suicide Prevention Coordinator position in Virginia.

News 3 caught up with a Vietnam War veteran who says it’s long overdue.

Ron Curtis, a Vietnam veteran, said: “Some veterans feel neglected. They feel like they’ve been pushed into a corner and say, ‘OK, you were in the military – that’s it. ‘”

This is partly why the Joint Leadership Council of Veterans Service Organizations (JLC) joined Del. Tata to introduce legislation that will create a coordinator to focus on mental health screenings for those who have served.

“Dedicated to providing training, prevention, and really resources to military or veterans and military families,” said Denice Williams, President of JLC.

In 2019, there were 188 veteran suicides in Virginia – that’s according to the latest report from the US Department of Veterans Affairs.

“PTSD, depression and anxiety are real. It’s very real and there’s no age limit,” Williams said.

Leaders said the legislation comes at a critical time, especially with many people struggling with the added stressors of COVID-19. A Vietnam veteran told us about his mental battles.

“The smallest thing can trigger my PTSD, and my whole attitude can flip,” Curtis said.

This led Curtis to turn to alcohol in his past.

“I never did drugs, but I tried to drink my problems. I was locked up in the VA hospital, in the psychiatric ward so many times that they put a sign on my door saying “This room belongs to Ron Curtis,'” Curtis said.

Turning his pain into power, Curtis is now an advocate for service members and veterans struggling with mental health crises and hopes the bill’s passage will be a priority this legislative session.

“I’m happy to help another veteran. If I can save a veteran without killing himself, I’ll feel a whole lot better,” Curtis said.

The legislation passed the House of Delegates earlier this month and was referred to a Senate committee last week.

Related: Hampton VA Helps Male Veterans, Raises Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Awareness