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Helping Hoosier veterans: Central Indiana organization focuses on ending veteran suicide

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Posted at 11:08 PM, Sep 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-28 23:11:13-04

INDIANAPOLIS — More than 400,000 veterans live in the state of Indiana, according to U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs data.

One issue plaguing the community is suicide.

“One death by suicide affects 135 people. I mean that ripple goes far and wide,” Matt Hall said.

Hall’s calling in life is to help others.

“It’s what gives me the passion. That’s what gets my fire going. That’s why I stay in,” Hall said.

It is the driving force behind his military service. The Fishers dad is an army combat veteran who served three tours of duty — twice in Afghanistan. Today — and for nearly 30 years — he remains in the army reserve.

Hall’s seen first-hand the issue of veteran suicide. Five soldiers he served with died by suicide.

Helping just one person is the reason behind why he heads the‘Indy Warrior Partnership'.

“Just like you, just like me, we’re all one significant life event away from being in crisis or needing assistance,” Hall said.

The idea is to build a community for Central Indiana veterans. Through IWP, veterans are connected to local resources like employment, housing and benefits. There is also 24/7 support via phone.

"We want to create the community. And we want to have people know, and I want to have them connected to the resources. So that suicide, it becomes less of an option," Hall said.

‘Lives are lost daily’

For 20 years, psychiatrist, Dr. Alexander Niculescu has worked with the veteran population including here at Richard Roudebush VA Medical Center. He works in both the clinical and research space trying to stop suicides.

“It's unacceptable to lose, you know, more veterans dying by suicide than by dying in combat.” Dr. Niculescu said.

He has seen nearly 5,000 unique veterans both here in Indiana and elsewhere.

“This is sort of an emergency. We’re not dealing here with chronic health issues that can be managed over the years. Lives are lost daily,” Dr. Niculescu said.

Nationwide, the VA reports “2020 had the lowest number of Veteran suicides since 2006." Advocates share in concerns over the VA’s recent report illustrating a drop in veteran suicide numbers nationwide. They worry the data shows an undercount in numbers.

“We’re encouraged by the trends we've seen in the last two, three years. But that doesn't mean we should, you know, rest on our laurels and become complacent,” Dr.Niculescu said.

However, the agency said Indiana’s veteran suicide rate is “significantly higher than the national veteran suicide rate.”

“The key is prevention. It’s catching early on the risk factors before they spiral out of control,” Dr. Niculsecu said. He continued, “If you see something, say something. You might save a life.”

Both the VA and Hall share in the fact work still needs to be done.