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VA Augusta employee uses creativity and compassion to reach Veterans at risk for suicide

VA employee creates card
VA Augusta Health Care System Program Support Assistant Dawn Ashley creates Caring Communications cards for Veterans identified as being at risk for possible suicide as part of a VA initiative. She uses her personal scrapbooking materials and a variety of colors and techniques to express uniqueness with every card. The Department of Veterans Affairs recently launched a faster hotline number available to everyone – 988, press 1. Don’t wait. Reach out. https://www.va.gov/REACH/

At VA, employees take their role in the treatment of Veterans seriously. It’s a mission of care for the Veteran and their families.

“We hope by doing a little more than the standard letter, it will encourage Veterans to realize that they are not alone,” said Dawn Ashley, a program support assistant at VA Augusta Health Care System who writes dozens of care cards per month to Veterans who recently experienced suicidal thoughts. “Veterans are worth more than they realize to the people around them.”

The Caring Communications Program began several years ago as a national VA initiative within the Suicide Prevention program. Ashley sends a brief card showing concern to VA Augusta patients identified as being at elevated risk for suicide. She uses her personal scrapbooking materials and creativity to add color and uniqueness to every card.

“Everyone of us has reached a low point in our life, and we are here to hopefully let those Veterans know that someone does care,” Ashley said.

A Veteran who had a long history of suicide risk received one of Ashley’s cards in the mail on a particularly hard day. After showing up for her scheduled Trauma-Recovery Center session with her therapist, she noted that the Caring Communications card and a phone call that same day distracted her from her negative thoughts.

“You wouldn’t think this would matter so much,” the Veteran said, noting she carried the card around in her backpack to remind her of her reasons to live. “Sometimes, all I want is to hear someone say is that they know how hard it is and that I’m trying.”

If you, or a Veteran you know, needs support, in the form of health care, housing, employment, stress management — don’t wait, reach out. Learn more at Don't Wait. Reach out. (va.gov).

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