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Asking About Suicide Does Not Create Suicidal Thoughts

September 26, 2017 by Kacie Kelly
It is important for communities to encourage veterans to be open about their experiences at war and communicate their frustrations and challenges.

Twenty veterans a day die by suicide, according to research conducted by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). Of those 20 veterans, 14 of them are not seeking care from the VA in the two years leading up to their death.  These numbers are staggering. We have a responsibility to honor the men and women who have protected our freedoms, and to help them transition into a successful civilian life.

At the George W. Bush Institute we believe a successful veteran transition is more than just being physically healthy. While the majority of veterans transition smoothly into civilian life, too many veterans and their families face challenges with finding meaningful employment, earning a college degree, building a community connection, and being treated for the physical and mental wounds of war. 

Veterans have greater success in their transition when sharing their experiences and stories with other veterans and connecting to their communities. However, often time’s veterans don’t know where to turn to find quality care providers and peer-to-peer networks. The Bush Institute Warrior Wellness Alliance is one of the only tools that bridges that gap. The Alliance facilitates partnerships to optimize the resources that exist across high quality mental health programs and connects post-9/11 peer programs to credible sources of information and care.

It is important for communities to encourage veterans to be open about their experiences at war and communicate about their frustrations. There is a common myth that speaking about suicide may lead a veteran to take his or own life. The reality is that asking about suicide does not create suicidal thoughts, it simply gives someone permission to talk about his/her thoughts or feelings.

Once their uniforms are put away, many veterans no longer know where they belong. Their day-to-day regiment is different and the tools and leadership qualities they learned aren’t being put to use. It is important that communities also encourage veterans to use the GI Bill and/or seek out meaningful employment.

We also encourage employers to hire veterans into positions based on the skills and attributes they will bring to their company. In partnership with the US Chamber of Commerce’s Hiring Our Heroes Initiative, we created a digital Veterans Employment Transition (VET) Roadmap that aids transitioning service members and veterans in navigating the arduous transition process.

Preventing veteran suicide is everyone’s business and each of us has a responsibility to engage. We encourage you to find out what you can do (if you have 5 minutes, 1 hour, or 1 day) to take action in support of veterans in your communities. Learn how you can Be There for a veteran. Treatment works and suicide is preventable. 

With support from communities, employers, educators, and healthcare providers, post-service warriors can continue to lead and serve in new and meaningful ways and help foster thriving communities across this great nation.  One life lost to suicide is too many.  What actions will you take today to join us?


Kacie Kelly
Kacie Kelly

Kacie Kelly oversees and manages policy, operational, and programmatic efforts on veteran health and well-being, including the Warrior Wellness Alliance.  She manages strategic efforts to promote the partnerships, collaboration, and alignment among organizations that are so crucial to fostering the health and well-being of post-9/11 Veterans.

Prior to this role, Kacie served as the National Director for Public-Private Partnerships in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Office for Suicide Prevention where she was responsible for developing a comprehensive and integrated public health approach to prevent suicide among the 14 million Veterans not engaged in VA healthcare. Throughout her 15-year career with VA, she led innovative programs to serve more Veterans and their families through strategic partnerships within government and across public and private sectors.  In addition, she has had leading roles to promote military culture competence in the community, outreach efforts to reduce stigma associated with seeking mental healthcare, and to enhance provider proficiency in evidence-based mental health care.  She earned her Master of Health Sciences (MHS) at Louisiana State University and has a Graduate Certificate in Women in Public Policy and Politics from the University of Massachusetts - Boston. Kacie has also been an active volunteer in the New Orleans community where she served as a Commissioner on the BioDistrict Board of New Orleans and on the Board of Directors for the American Red Cross.

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