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Ohio Leaders Highlight Mental Health Resources For Veterans

 Gov. Mike DeWine joins other leaders to talk about the importance of mental health services for veterans.
Andy Chow
Ohio Public Radio
Gov. Mike DeWine joins other leaders to talk about the importance of mental health services for veterans.

State officials are reinforcing a message to Ohio veterans that help is available for anyone, especially for those having a difficult time processing the events happening in Afghanistan.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who served as a U.S. Army Special Forces green beret, said it's important to help veterans overcome the stigma of mental health issues in order to ask for help.

"Those wounds that can't be seen, need to be tended to," LaRose said. "Now there was this old mentality that permeated the military for far too long of 'our men and women in uniform are tough' and sometimes they get confused in thinking that toughness means they can take care of it themselves. Well we've learned better. If you're really tough, if you are a strong man or woman you'll get the help you need and there's a lot of help out there."

Ohio National Guard Adjutant General Major General John Harris emphasized that the work carried out in Afghanistan was not in vain, saying "your service matters, you matter."

Lori Criss, the director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, highlighted several resources available for veterans who are dealing with mental health issues such as suicidal ideations or depression.

Those resources include:

  • Ohio Cares, a website created to consolidate a directory of services available to veterans
  • Veteran Crisis Line, 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 (this is part of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline)
  • Ohio CareLine, 1-800-720-9616
  • Ohio Department of Veteran Services

Criss said friends and family can also reach out to these resources to help a loved one who is struggling.
"There are two barriers to getting help, the first is that shame and stigma that many of us feel when we have a mental health concern and we don't want to admit that to ourselves, much less to someone else. And the second is not knowing where to go for help. So we encourage family members to become familiar with the signs of mental health conditions and also to know where to go for help," Criss said.

She said to look out for the warning signs of suicide which may be; sleeping too little or too much, acting aggressively or taking risks, saying "goodbye to people," giving away prized possessions, disengaging from activities that they usually enjoy.

"Ask them if they are thinking about hurting themselves," Criss said. "Ask them if they've thought about suicide. It is OK to do that. It's recommended you do that. And if you need help having that conversation, call the CareLine and practice how to have that conversation."

The state leaders were asked about veterans who have to wait to get help from veteran services. Criss said they are aware of that issue and that is why members of the military are also asked to reach out to local service providers.

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.