State VA Aims For Zero Veterans Suicides

New Program Enlists Civilian Help


The Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs has unveiled a program aimed at reaching zero suicides of military veterans.

State officials say two years ago, 18 percent of suicides in Wisconsin were veterans. National figures indicate an average of 20 veterans die by suicide every day.

Wisconsin’s new Zero Veterans Suicide Initiative aims to train more civilians in how to identify military veterans who may be contemplating taking their life.

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State Veterans Affairs Secretary John Scocos said community involvement may bring more success.

“Because they know so many veterans,” Scocos said. “The veterans that are underneath the bridge in downtown Milwaukee that folks see every day. The ability to reach out and assist him in getting the help they need.”

The program was announced at a conference Friday in Pewaukee. Training will emphasize a system called Question, Persuade and Refer, or QPR. It is aimed at getting veterans to places of assistance to deal with issues such as unemployment, alcohol abuse or PTSD.

Scocos said the questions can start simply, such as asking a veteran, “How are you doing today?” and thanking them for their service.

“And it usually then leads to some of the issues that a veteran might have,” he said. “They might not want to talk to you, and a lot of veterans just want to talk to veterans. But I think this Zero Suicide Initiative can really bring out citizen-community involvement in this.”

The state plans to distribute the training though county Veterans Service Offices, the Red Cross and other community partners.