Maj. Gen. Rice: 'We're All in This Together'

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    UMass, National Guard, Veterans Services joining forces to help in suicide prevention

    (NECN: Michel Cronin) - Recognizing the needs of our servicemen and women, the University of Massachusetts medical school, the Massachusetts National Guard and the Mass. Department of Veterans Services are joining forces to help in suicide prevention among National Guard members.

    It’s a new partnership aimed at protecting military personnel when they return home from combat.

    “All of us. Our whole community is involved in this. We're all in this together,” says Maj. Gen. Scott Rice.

    UMass medical school will be training Massachusetts National Guard members in suicide prevention.

    Massachusetts secretary of veterans' services Coleman Nee says it's a big step because military suicides rates are on the rise.

    “Well essentially it's because we've deployed people back and forth to combat, multiple combat zone for over 11 years now and that takes a stress that takes a toll.”

    Nee says, when soldiers return, they can feel isolated because they don't have people who can relate to their experiences.

    “Get them the peer support they need, the fellow vets to convince them to get help and then have world class medical facilities and personnel to treat them,” he says.

    Adjutant general of the Massachusetts National Guard, Major General Rice says it's an effort by the entire community to help each individual military member.

    “No matter whether it's one person or a million people, every single person, every single soldier and air person in our command of almost 9,000 is important.”

    Along with training guardsmen, UMass will be educating their own students and medical workers about military culture.

    We're going to work together with our department of psychiatry and other elements within the medical school to study the issue and see if it's possible for us to help provide care for those who are affected by the service in the military,” says Michael Collins, MD.

    Nee says helping veterans starts with prevention.

    "When we catch someone only at the end, right before they're about to attempt a suicide, we really failed that person."