Suicide Stand Down

Army veteran Gwendolyn Singleton-Wright selects some plants Wednesday from the Bell County Master Gardeners table at the seventh annual Suicide Stand Down at the Olin E. Teague Veterans’ Medical Center in Temple.

Tracey Brown Greene, an Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the VA Suicide Stand Down on Wednesday put front and center the organizations and programs that are available to assist veterans who are feeling emotionally vulnerable after experiencing some harrowing events during deployment.

“If you look out here just a little bit, you can see there are people here who can guide you through the process of healing,” Greene said.

 Greene said she experienced trauma during both of her deployments and found it difficult to assimilate at home.

“Suicide looked like the easy way out, but because I reached out for help, I was able to make the transition home,” she said.

Greene was helped by her therapist, psychiatrist, primary care physician and social worker.

Bring Everyone in the Zone, which offers peer-to-peer support, was helpful following Greene’s deployment to Afghanistan.

“Some of the resources that are here today helped me,” Greene said.

Greene turned to the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Endeavors, which provides access to comprehensive mental health care to post-9/11 veterans and their families.

She also got involved in parks and recreation classes, and gardening has become a form of therapy.

“We know a lot of veterans who commit suicide are isolated and not engaged in community activities,” said Lisa Fowler, suicide prevention coordinator with the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System. “Our goal this year is to bring community activities to them to show them the resources that are available.”

A VA study that looked at 55 million records from 1979 to 2014 indicated 20 veterans commit suicide each day and six of those veterans receive their medical care at the VA.

“We’re partnering with community resources to reach out to those veterans who don’t receive their care at the VA,” Fowler said.

This event is one way to get those veterans on the VA campus.

Bell County Master Gardeners were out in full force, behind tables that ran the length of the covered valet parking area at the Olin E. Teague Veterans’ Medical Center in Temple. The Master Gardeners were demonstrating how to plant succulents, grow fall garden vegetables in containers, and more.

The floor in front and in back of the Master Gardeners was covered with plants to be given away to the veterans, depending on their preference. There were containers with herbs, lambs ear, coleus and more.

Fowler said a lot of people are involved with developing the annual Suicide Stand Down and work already has begun on next year’s event. Fowler chairs the Bell County Suicide Prevention Coalition, which is made up of community partners who bring resources to the annual event.

Help Heal Veterans, which provides wood and leather craft projects to all veterans, were set up at a booth.

“Help Heal Veterans is a national organization that has two storefronts in the country,” Fowler said. “We’re fortunate to have one of those stores only a block away (in Temple).”

Several rangers from Texas State Parks were on hand to talk about all of the activities available at state parks in Central Texas.

“There are different ways to enjoy nature and be outdoors,” said Kris Simmons, ranger at the Fairfield Lake. “We do offer a veterans’ pass.”

There were lots of displays about the parks, including the types of critters visitors are likely to come across during a visit, and a few animal pelts. The skunk pelt was quite soft.   

Texas Humane Heroes had some puppies at the stand down.

Texas Humane Heroes takes in dogs and cats from animal shelters around the area that are at capacity and need to begin euthanizing their shelter animals. The group advocates for having pets vaccinated, and spayed and neutered.

“We offer spay and neuter clinics once a week in Killeen on Clear Creek Road and twice a week in Leander,” said Amy Nix. “We also have low-cost vaccination clinics once a month.”

For information, visit HumaneHeroes.org.

“Over the years, I’ve seen some really good things happen during the Suicide Stand Down, such as connecting a veteran who likes to fish with the Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing” Fowler said.

Healing Waters is dedicated to the emotional and physical rehabilitation of disabled active duty military personnel and veterans.