Mental Health In Carson City: Carson City V.I.P.S focuses on helping veterans | NevadaAppeal.com

Mental Health In Carson City: Carson City V.I.P.S focuses on helping veterans

Ken Smith, right, and Frank Reynolds

For many veterans and military service members, the trauma they witness can lead to mental health problems that often go untreated which attributes to high suicide rates nationwide.

Mental health and suicide is often not talked about among veterans for fear it shows weakness. But according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, nearly 20 veterans per day commit suicide, and veterans make up nearly 18 percent of national adult suicides.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services Division of Public and Behavioral Health in a study conducted in 2013, one Nevada veteran dies from suicide every 2.8 days, with 130 committing suicide in 2013, and four people are admitted to a hospital every 24 hours for a suicide attempt.

Sixty percent of veteran suicides occur with vets ages 55 years and older, compared to only 36 percent of all Nevada suicides.

Many veterans return home from the military face problems such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or survivor’s guilt and often it can be overwhelming, Veteran Affairs says. Reynolds said the program could be helpful because struggling veterans are more willing to talk with other veterans who can empathize with their experiences.

To combat this, the Carson City Sheriff's Office has created the V.I.P.S. for Veterans program.

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"We saw a need in the community from a law enforcement perspective for unique services geared toward vets," said Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong. "There has been much talk and collaborations with other agencies to target suicide rates related to veterans. We believed that by providing or offering services before crisis levels we would have an impact."

Veterans volunteer to help other vets by being on call to help listen when needed.

"If someone needs me, I can go over there to be a type of Band-Aid and just hear their story," said Frank Reynolds, one of the members of the program and the president of the Carson City Veterans Community Council.

"I am not there to arrest anyone, I am there for them. I want to try to give them resources (to help)."

The program, created by Sheriff's Office volunteer coordinator Ken Smith, is designed to have volunteers provide a number of services to veterans, including wellness checks, medical transportation, and a referral system for a number of problems the vets may face.

"We want to make sure they aren't being neglected," Smith said. "We will help them get help. Do they need food? Do they need mental health care? We just want to be able to assist them any way we can."

Smith said a lot of their services will most likely revolve around an "Are you OK?" model, meaning they will check in with vets around the community to make sure they are getting the basic level of care, are eating and are in good mental and physical health and hygiene.

"There is so much we can do, so many of us at the Sheriff's Office are veterans and we sat down and said we just need to help each other out," Smith said. "I don't want a veteran to be in need and get overlooked because they think no one cares."

The program is in conjunction with the Retired Senior Volunteer Program. All the volunteers will be trained as Sheriff's Office volunteers so they can handle both the V.I.P.S for Vets calls and other emergency calls.

Smith hopes that the volunteers will be other veterans, but anyone can join.

Many veterans return home from the military face problems such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or survivor's guilt and often it can be overwhelming, Veteran Affairs says. Reynolds said the program could be helpful because struggling veterans are more willing to talk with other veterans who can empathize with their experiences.

"We had a counselor come and talk to us about suicide and he said 'I understand what you go through' and its like no, did you go through what we did or did you read reports on it?" Reynolds said.

He said he is able to relate because he has experienced some of the same feelings, such as survivor's guilt.

"It is so hard to deal with living when you know your best friend died (in combat with you) because it's like I survived, I'm not a hero, I just survived," Reynolds said. "That guilt is what kept me in because no one else understood (what I was feeling) and it is so hard to overcome when you get out. It is an indescribable feeling."

"With survivors guilt and PTSD, you see all of the faces of those you killed and lost and once you get out those issues pack up in the back of your head so you could be watching a movie, a Disney movie, and get PTSD. But we need to just remember that we need to take care of the person who survived too and just don't let up on them."

But those feelings are what help Reynolds build a deeper and more genuine connection with the individuals he sees.

"If he's a combat hardened vet, he wants to talk about that (with someone like me) because I know how he felt," Reynolds said. "But it is still hard to get them to talk. Why? I don't think I have an answer for that."

This connection is especially important, because it helps Reynolds transfer the individual to other mental health services.

"(They trust me) because I know how they felt so then it is my job to validate the next person in line," Reynolds said. "So I can be like 'hey here is a friend of mine who can help get you what you need, and you can trust them because I trust them."

Reynolds said that people so often avoid the topic of suicide that he directly asks the individuals about it and that will usually stop and make them think about their decision.

"In the military you are taught to skirt around the issue, but I will ask them 'how do you want to do it?' so it makes them think more and it brings an awareness to them," Reynolds said. "You don't have to mother them, just talk to them and check up on them to make sure everything is OK."

"Suicide builds up, it is not just a wake up and kill myself right now, it may start at 6 a.m. and end at 6 p.m., so we have to learn to disrupt that buildup to let that person know that there is still good. I want people to know we are here to help."

For information on Carson City veteran resources, visit http://carson.org/residents/veterans. To sign up for the V.I.P.S. for Vets as a volunteer or veteran, contact Ken Smith at 775-283-7810 or RSVP's veterans VIP coordinator Lyndia Todoroff at 775-687-4680, extension 119.

Mental health in carson City

Continuing through the month of June, the Nevada Appeal will explore mental health in Carson City.

Last week: Resources put emphasis on prevention to decrease cost of treatment in community

Last week: One man’s struggle with mental illness

Earlier: This week: School district enacts new suicide policy

Earlier: Ron Swirczek urges those with family members dealing with mental health issues to educate themselves on signs of suicide

Earlier: Working together to address the core of the problem

For a full list of Carson City Resources and more information on each go here.

See next Tuesday’s Nevada Appeal for more about mental health in Carson City.

four types of PTSD symptoms

Reliving the event (also called re-experiencing symptoms)

Memories of the traumatic event can come back at any time. You may feel the same fear and horror you did when the event took place. For example:

You may have nightmares.

You may feel like you are going through the event again. This is called a flashback.

You may see, hear, or smell something that causes you to relive the event. This is called a trigger. News reports, seeing an accident, or hearing a car backfire are examples of triggers.

Avoiding situations that remind you of the event

You may try to avoid situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic event. You may even avoid talking or thinking about the event. For example:

You may avoid crowds, because they feel dangerous.

You may avoid driving if you were in a car accident or if your military convoy was bombed.

If you were in an earthquake, you may avoid watching movies about earthquakes.

You may keep very busy or avoid seeking help because it keeps you from having to think or talk about the event.

Negative changes in beliefs and feelings

The way you think about yourself and others changes because of the trauma. This symptom has many aspects, including the following:

You may not have positive or loving feelings toward other people and may stay away from relationships.

You may forget about parts of the traumatic event or not be able to talk about them.

You may think the world is completely dangerous, and no one can be trusted.

Feeling keyed up (also called hyperarousal)

You may be jittery, or always alert and on the lookout for danger. You might suddenly become angry or irritable. This is known as hyperarousal. For example:

You may have a hard time sleeping.

You may have trouble concentrating.

You may be startled by a loud noise or surprise.

You might want to have your back to a wall in a restaurant or waiting room.

The National Center for PTSD

Carson City Resources

Carson City offers a number of resources to assist with individuals with mental health. Below is a brief description of some of the resources.

CIT

Crisis Intervention Training is a program offered with the Carson City Sheriff’s Office for deputies to learn skills and techniques to better assist individuals with mental health issues. This is meant to help reduce the number of individuals ending up in the jail and provide additional resources.

MOST

The Mobile Outreach Safety Team is also a program through the Sheriff’s Office that pairs a licensed clinical social worker to address responses to psychiatric emergencies with law enforcement. Call 775-291-7715.

FASTT

The Forensic Assessment Services Triage Team is run through the jail to help individuals already in the criminal justice system receive a treatment plan inside and outside the jail.

Mental Health Court

This program is developed through the court system as a diversion program to provide a supervised, comprehensive diagnostic and treatment program for mental illness to address the problem of minor criminal behavior associated with mental health issues.

JJASTT

The Juvenile Justice Assessment Triage Team was created for the juvenile justice system as a diversionary tactic to provide treatment for children who have mental health issues. This program is a six-month treatment plan, meant to steer them from probation when it isn’t as necessary. Mallory Crisis Center

Carson City’s newest resource acts as a psychiatric facility for patients in crisis to help get them immediate treatment. The facility is meant to reduce the number of individuals with mental illness that end up in the jail and Carson Tahoe Hospital emergency room. Call 775-445-8889. NAMI

The National Alliance for Mental Illness is a volunteer-based organization that provides classes, tools and resources for individuals and their families to help deal with mental health issues. Call 775-440-1626 or visit http://www.namiwesternnevada.org.