WNYHeroes, Inc. provides Veterans, members of the armed services, and the widows and children of deceased Veterans with access to essential services, financial assistance and resources that support their lives and sustain their dignity.
Chris Kreiger Sr., Iraq War Veteran President, Co-Founder, talks about new services offered to Veterans that address mental health conditions.
Why is it so important to address mental health issues for Veterans?
Veterans are a population of our country that are exposed to more trauma than any other individual. The suicide rate among Veterans is extremely high, 22 a day, maybe even higher. Yet, many Veterans do not seek mental health services because they are not eligible or refuse to seek services through the VA. Here at WNYHeroes, we still worry about them. We can now change that by offering mental health services and medication management to those who served right here under our roof.
Is stigma still a barrier for Veterans seeking help?
I believe the stigma is being broken down. With more Veterans being referred to our Pawsitive for Heroes program and now those walking in for Mental Health services, we see first-hand the barrier coming down. Veterans have to be referred to our program through their medical caregiver. All 162 service dogs that we have since paired, have all been done through medical referral. This shows us that Veterans are recognizing that they do need/want help and are not afraid to ask for it anymore. We even have a huge success rate with our Peer-to-Peer Support programs, Operation BOOTS and PFC Dwyer, which is county funded through both Genesee and Ontario Counties.
If we can continue showing Veterans that it takes more courage to ask for help than not, the stigma will continue to be beaten down.