HAMPTON, Va. — Months of isolation during the coronavirus pandemic has impacted the veteran community.
These days, Telehealth is the way most of them seek therapy from the Hampton VA Medical Center.
Dr. Sheronda Farrow, a licensed clinical psychologist with the Hampton VA, said the lack of face-to-face therapy services has led to more crisis calls on a higher level of severity.
“Because our veterans are not able to get in and get the usual mental health services that they’ve had, what we have noticed qualitatively is that the nature of the calls have changed,” said Farrow.
“Sometimes we would get calls for general questions, now, more of the calls are crisis-related and related to needs for support than they have been in the past.”
The pandemic has also altered the way in which veterans implement coping strategies their therapists recommend. Farrow said it has a trickle-down effect on their mental health.
“A lot of the coping strategies that we usually engage in have not been available. Whereas people may have been going to the gym or going out to the movies, or spending time with family, that’s something that changed with COVID-19,” said Farrow.
In an effort to make sure veterans seek help by video or by phone, Farrow said the Hampton VA has created a council to bridge the digital divide.
They’re also giving out tablets and other technology to make sure veterans who need help will have access remotely.
According to data released by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense, an average of nearly 20 current or former Servicemembers die by suicide each day. Recently, the AP reported military suicides are up 20 percent compared to this time last year.
Wednesday, the Senate unanimously passed a bill introduced by U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Roger Wicker. The legislation would make Sept. 30 National Veterans Suicide Prevention Day.
“I’m hopeful this bill will bring more necessary attention to this issue and offer support and community to more military families who’ve had to endure the tragedy of a veteran suicide,” said Kaine.