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Hold Onto Hope

Discussion Panel
Discussion panel members engage in dialogue related to suicide prevention.

For nearly five hours, the Manna Student Center in Fayetteville, North Carolina, played host to an annual Suicide Prevention Month event that has grown in each of its three years.

Hold Onto Hope, brings VA, DoD and community organizations together with hundreds of Veterans, service members, families, friends, and health care professionals.  The focus was simple—share the complexities of suicide.

“The event was meant to normalize feelings of grief, loss and pain associated with difficult life circumstances and by offering support and hope for a positive future is always part of the solution,” said Kendra Danzer, social worker and Fayetteville VA Coastal Health Care System’s Suicide Prevention Program community engagement and partnership coordinator.

Discussion panel participants, each touched by thoughts of suicide or loss from suicide, shared their stories with the nearly 200 guests. 

Life changed for Army Veteran Kim Franco with a text message she received from her younger brother. It read, “Kim, in 5 minutes I’m going to kill myself.” 

That experience led her to founding a nonprofit organization where she provides grief support to those affected by sudden and tragic loss.

Fayetteville VA Police Chief Stephen Oliver’s keynote speech weaved a tale of personal and professional triumph over the limitations one adult placed on him in childhood.

Thirty minutes after his remarks while sitting as a member of the panel, Oliver opened up with an even more personal story in line with the event theme when he mentioned a suicide that touched his life.

According to Danzer, no matter your income, gender, profession or stage in life, suicide has no rules suicide has no rules, no limits or no guidelines, and we all can face difficult times. “We are all human and sometimes we need others, in our circles, in our communities to keep us connected to hope and purpose,” she added.

To better address the need for suicide prevention education and support, a local community organization was formed. Known as The LINK, the group includes Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense, Veterans Bridge Home, the Fayetteville Vet Center, and the Steven A. Cohen Military Family Clinic (Fayetteville). The LINK hosts outreach events to connect with the military and Veteran communities and provide awareness and resources needed to those impacted.

“We know that we cannot do this alone, so we need our community to support this effort and collaborate across all organizations and agencies at every level,” said Danzler.

VA’s top clinical priority is preventing suicide among all Veterans — including those who do not, and may never, seek care within the VA health care system. 

If you're a Veteran who is thinking of hurting yourself—or you know a Veteran who’s considering this—we can help. Our VA Fayetteville Coastal health care suicide prevention coordinators can get you the support you need. They work with our behavioral health providers and community organizations to assist Veterans who are managing emotional or mental health crises. Please visit Suicide Prevention | VA Fayetteville Coastal Health Care | Veterans Affairs for more information.

The COMPACT Act allows Veterans in suicidal crisis to go to any VA or community health care facility for free emergency mental health care – including transportation costs, inpatient or crisis residential care for up to 30 days, and outpatient care for up to 90 days, including social work.

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