Letter to the Editor

Joel Mowrey

Dear Editor,

During this week of Veterans’ Day 2014, the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Portage County would like to encourage military personnel, veterans, their families, friends, employers, co-workers and the community to become aware of the resources available for help if a service member faces a mental health crisis.

A recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and The Washington Post indicates that one in two veterans know a fellow service member who has attempted or completed suicide, and more than 1 million suffer from relationship problems and experience outbursts of anger — two key indicators of post-traumatic stress. 

Death by suicide among soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan more than doubled from 2004 to 2009 to more than 30-per-100,000 population while the trend among those who never deployed nearly tripled to between 25- and 30-per-100,000, according to a recent US Army study. You can compare death by suicide in the general population at 19-per-100,000 during this time. 

There are also the men and women who served in previous wars including World War II, the Vietnam War and the Korean War who are also living with the mental health consequences of battle. 

In Portage County, the Mental Health & Recovery Board funds the Townhall II 24-hour Helpline at 330-678-4357(HELP) or toll free at 1-866-449-8518. Crisis intervention specialists are available to talk and make referrals for local treatment and support. There is also the 24-hour Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 PRESS 1 made available through the US Department of Veterans Affairs. The services of the Veterans Crisis Line are available even if the service member is not registered with the VA.

Both phone lines are free, confidential and available year round. Family members, concerned friends and employers can also call both lines to learn more about supporting the service member before, during or after a crisis.

If the person needs to be seen immediately for possible hospitalization, call Coleman Access at 330-296-3555 or 1-877-796-3555. The 24-hour facility, also funded by the MHRB, is located at The Sue Hetrick Building, 3922 Lovers Lane, Ravenna.

When to call? Warning signs include: talking or thinking about killing oneself; looking for ways to complete suicide; increasing alcohol and drug abuse; having weapons nearby; feeling hopeless with no reason to live; and engaging in risky behavior.

Treatment is the next step. There is more information at our updated website: mental-health-recovery.org. The Mental Health & Recovery Board also has publications that we will send if you call 330-673-1756.

We believe that treatment works and people can recover. Our local mental health and recovery system can help when there is a crisis.

Joel Mowrey, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Mental Health and Recovery Board of Portage County