Department of Veterans Affairs shares resources for suicide prevention at Madison forum

MADISON, Wis. — The Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs held one of six suicide prevention forums in Madison on Wednesday at the Monona Terrace.

The forum, “Combating Veteran Suicide,” featured experts in the field of suicide prevention and mental health along with vendors in booths sharing resources for veterans.

“We’re working to improve the level of service and care that veterans receive with the goal of reducing veteran suicide across the state and around the country,” said Curtis Lemke with the Wisconsin Department of Veteran Affairs.

Lemke said more than one hundred people signed up for the forum and listened to speakers give presentations in break-out rooms.

“Speakers are coming in and talking about their experiences transitioning out of the military,” said Lemke. “We have LGBTQ and transgender veterans speaking about their experiences and the obstacles they’ve faced.”

One of the veterans who spoke was Cal Stammer. He’s a veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We’re really focusing on veterans suicide bringing providers here, bringing resources, and just bringing the community together,” said Stammer.

Stammer said his reason for presenting at the forum was personal.

“My uncle is no longer here on this earth because of suicide,” said Stammer. He’s not alone. 

“Most OEF/OIF veterans have lost more friends and fellow service members to suicide than they actually did in combat during their time in the military,” said Lemke. “Myself included”

Both Lemke and Stammer expressed the importance of making sure the mental health resources available to veterans are known.

“If there’s one veteran that’s still alive on this earth because of our summit today, and the presentations, and the resources they received… this summit is a complete success.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues or considering suicide, there are resources available to help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is open 24/7 at 800-273-8255 (for the Veterans Crisis Line, press 1). Starting July 16, 2022, the lifeline will also be available by calling 988. In Dane County, Journey Mental Health Center has a 24/7 suicide prevention hotline at 608-280-2600.