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Columbia VA Hospital offers suicide prevention help

The Dorn VA Medical Center in Columbia offers mental health programs for struggling veterans.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Dorn VA Medical Center in Columbia offers programs for veterans struggling with thoughts of suicide.

The month of September is Suicide Prevention Month.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, almost 50,000 Americans died by suicide in 2018.

One program at Dorn Veteran’s Hospital is helping combat these numbers every day.

One veteran who has benefited from this program is Andrew Selking. Andrew served in the United States Army for 24 years, but when he retired and started moving forward with his life, he noticed he just wasn’t feeling the same.

“I had been diagnosed with PTSD before I got out of the Army but we had things pretty well under control," Andrew shares, "the problem was after I got out, I started having a lot more symptoms and I started feeling like hurting somebody else and eventually I turned that on to myself- I started thinking about hurting myself.”

Credit: Andrew Selking
Andrew Selking during his time in the US Army.

Andrew was lost and didn’t know what to do. Another veteran friend of his had gone through something similar and recommended he get help through the VA Hospital, “And so I was able to come to the VA clinic, and it wasn’t a pleasant experience but the people were really super nice and it was also really helpful to be with other veterans. That really helped me feel like I wasn’t alone.”

Dr. Peter Warren manages the suicide prevention program at Dorn and works first hand with veterans who are facing mental health issues, “The suicide prevention program came about as a major initiative in the VA 13 years ago where suicide was starting to be recognized as a major issue with the veteran population. It always has been but they finally started putting energy and resources towards it.”

Dr. Warren urges veterans in the VA system to take advantage of the programs they offer, even if you are just curious about mental health, “A resource unused is not really useful so if you have someone who’s struggling and they don’t know how to get in with us, if they don’t even know that the sources are here and available, then there’s not really a lot we can do to help them, unfortunately.”

Andrew used these resources and now spends his time being a care-taker for his granddaughter who has special needs and peer-leading suicide prevention groups at Dorn.

Credit: Andrew Selking
Andrew Selking and his granddaughter.

“I’ll tell you what, if we didn’t have this program available here- I wouldn’t be here right now," Andrew reflects. He hopes sharing his story will help someone else take advantage of these resources. 

If you are a veteran in need of assistance with thoughts of suicide, visit the Veterans Crisis Line or call 1-800-273-8255 and press 1. 

If you or someone you know is in crisis, even if you are not a veteran, Call 800-273-8255 or text TALK to 741741