WASHINGTON, D.C. (NEXSTAR) — Each year, the CDC said 45,000 Americans die from suicide, and it’s estimated that as many as 6,000 of those are veterans.
Now the White House is unveiling plans it hopes will bring those numbers down.
The White House calls it “PREVENTS” — short for the “Presidents Roadmap To Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide.”
“The overarching goal is to finally, is to finally have a national conversation about suicide prevention,” said Robert Wilkie, Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Wilkie said that means getting resources where they need to go and find those veterans who need them.
“Right now, 2/3 of those who commit suicide, we have no contact with, that’s not a scientific thing, that’s an outreach thing,” he said. “So what we’re going to be doing is coming up with ways for the states and localities and charities to help us find those veterans.”
Wilkie also wants to break down the stigma surrounding suicide and mental health.
“We’re not even at the Sputnik stage when it comes to getting our heads around what goes on in the human mind,” he said.
But some Democratic lawmakers said the Trump administration hasn’t given this problem the attention that it deserves.
“I mean he’s underfunded the VA, underfunded mental health issues especially,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). “There’s been so much turnover at the VA like so many agencies, they’re just not focused on it.”
Despite that, Brown said he is optimistic about the new approach.
“I hope this new initiative will mean that we can bi-partisanly work on this,” he said.
But Wilkie said the Trump administration has consistently focused on this problem, and believes the benefits will go beyond those who’ve worn a uniform.
“We’re not only in a position to help veterans, but we can help the entire country,” he said.