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Carrie's Corner: Encouraging Our Heroes to "Stay in the Fight"

By Carrie Slatton-Hodges
Friday, October 01, 2021

The other members are still your “battle buddies,” even if the sands of the Middle East have been replaced by the dirt of an Oklahoma softball field.

As Americans, we cherish our freedoms, and recognize the courage and sacrifice so many in the armed forces have proffered to ensure our country remains free.

Yet, today, we’re losing more service members to suicide than on actual battlefields. Veterans are at a 50 percent higher risk of suicide than their peers who have not served. Our message to veterans is this: You are important. You matter. Please stay in the fight. 

ODMHSAS partners with a variety of organizations dedicated to helping veterans and their families through life challenges, and while transitioning from active military service back to civilian life and beyond.  Our focus is not only on suicide prevention, but also on the factors that may lead to suicidal ideation, including major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, substance abuse, relationship issues and difficulties transitioning back into mainstream life.

Most recently, we have joined forces with Eagle Ops and Cohen Veterans Network.

Oklahoma-based Eagle OPS provides opportunities for veterans, veteran families and patriots to build relationships through social activities, fitness and volunteerism. Through these relationships, Eagle OPS connects veterans to resources and assists in a healthy transition home. 

Suicide prevention is a primary objective. Reducing isolation and loneliness are key, and the organization encourages veterans to be open about the topic. Asking and listening is the first step in suicide prevention. If someone you know shows warning signs for suicide, be direct. Tell them it's okay to talk about suicidal feelings. Practice active listening techniques and let them talk without judgement.

Their message is to “help protect your fellow service members and veterans just like you would on the battlefield.”

Another partnership we helped facilitate was the Red Rock Behavioral Health Services and Cohen Veteran’s Network collaboration in Lawton. The two recently joined together to establish The Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic at Red Rock. 

Red Rock was one of the first three Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) in the state. As one of our contracted Community Mental Health Centers, it operates a prolific network of facilities across western and central Oklahoma. 

The Cohen Veteran’s Network was created primarily to treat post-9/11 veterans and family members to high-quality mental health care by removing barriers to care

The Cohen Military Family Clinic at Red Rock is one of approximately 20 such clinics nationally. 

Cohen clinics provide low or no-cost specialized therapy for depression, anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other transitional challenges. They offer marriage counseling, relationship counseling and help with children’s behavioral issues to support the entire military family.  

On top of behavioral health services, the Red Rock clinic adds local resource connections to caregiver support and child care, employment and housing, legal assistance, peer support, personal finance and several other areas.

Eagle OPS and the Cohen Veteran’s Network operate by the same principle. The other members are still your “battle buddies,” even if the sands of the Middle East have been replaced by the dirt of an Oklahoma softball field. 

Service members have a will to survive on the battlefield and will do anything they can to keep their fellow soldiers alive and out of harm’s way. On domestic soil, that includes watching out for suicide warning signs.

The military bond service members share cannot be replicated. That’s why the groups’ emphasis on peer support, which lies at the heart of most successful recovery, allows them to work so well. 

These organizations protect service members, veterans and their families from needless deaths once they have transitioned to life at home. 

As an agency, we wholeheartedly support that effort

After losing too many service members to battle, we can’t afford to lose any more of our valuable veterans once they get home.

Carrie Slatton-Hodges, Commissioner

Carrie Slatton-Hodges is currently serving as the Commissioner for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. Prior to her current role, Carrie served 12 years as the Deputy Commissioner for ODMHSAS, overseeing treatment and recovery services through state operated and contracted treatment providers statewide. Carrie has a strong commitment to mental health and addiction recovery for Oklahomans and believes we all deserve to live a valuable, productive life in the community.

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