Eastern Kansas VA using whole health to help suicidal, depressed veterans

Health Check

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and with more than 16 veterans dying by suicide every day in the United States, the staff at the VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System are turning to whole health to help them.

Daniel Brazzell of Overland Park was in the United States Marine Corps for 10 years fighting in Iraq before he was discharged with post-traumatic stress disorder. The transition from the battlefield to regular life took a complete turn for him.

“I really struggled for me and my heart. I felt like I was a loser, I don’t have a job,” Brazzell said. “Yeah, okay, so I was working at Target at the time doing security, but I use to go out and save countries and do these wonderful things and now I wasn’t.”

Brazzell felt alone, away from his fellow soldiers, his normal routine, and his purpose.

After contemplating suicide, he checked into a Kansas VA hospital. There, he went through multiple treatments until he found the right one for him.

“I’m like, ‘Oh my God, this is perfect. This is what I needed,'” Brazzell said. “That gave me the step back so that I can say, ‘Okay, now what?'”

The next step for Brazzell was founding Team Fidelis. The organization is a support group that helps thousands of veterans going through similar struggles as Brazzell did.

“Isolation can be toxic, if not deadly, especially for our veteran population,” said Dr. Stephanie Davis, suicide prevention coordinator for the VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System. “We need connection in order to thrive, in order to live, in order to survive.”

The health care system is using a whole health approach to help veterans who feel isolated. This focuses on what is important to the veteran and what drives them, and uses it as a focal point to get through the difficult time.

“A whole health approach is all about partnering with our veterans and our community members to help give our veterans the skills that they need to have a healthy life, and to support them in their journey towards health,” said Dr. Codi Schale, whole health clinical director for the health care system.

The Eastern Kansas VA Health Care System hosted a virtual summit on Friday, where participants discussed this approach further.

“What sets your heart on fire, go do that because that’s the key,” Brazzell said.

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