After the Battle, Veterans Take On Substance Abuse and Depression

The Veteran’s Administration is working on new strategies to end the suicide epidemic for veterans.

Suicide rates are rising. Among the groups most at-risk are veterans. Tara Consolino is the Director of Suicide Prevention and Substance Use Disorder at the Dingell VA Medical Center in Detroit. She spoke with WDET’s Russ McNamara about suicide and ways the VA is working to give vets the help they need.

Click the player above to hear an interview with Tara Consolino talk suicide prevention for veterans.

On the suicide epidemic among vets

Right now we are down to 20 veterans [dying of suicide] a day. However, that’s down from 22. But here’s the deal – it’s too many. At this point, we’re really focused on all veterans. Those who are already engaged in care. Those who have never stepped foot in the VA – male, female, Marine, Airman – we’re here for all of them.

On substance abuse affecting mental health

It’s one of those things where substances are something that people use to cope sometimes. And when you’ve got drugs or alcohol in the mix you can make decisions impulsively that you wouldn’t normally make. So something that somebody might be able to sleep off if they were sober or didn’t have anything in their system they might make an impulsive decision. And that decision can affect multitudes of lives of those around them.

Limiting access to firearms saves lives

So the VA actually has a huge public health push right now to look at lethal means safety, restricting people’s access to their firearms by keeping them locked up and giving our free gun locks to people. If someone has their firearm and they have it locked up – taking that key and hiding it in an ice cube. So that way, in order to unlock it they’ll buy some time to really think about that decision. And what we find is if you take that impulsivity away, fortunately most people see there’s a reason to live. Opiates and other substances really increase the chances for impulsivity.

If you need help or are in crisis …

Call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Veterans can press ‘1’ for special services.




  • Russ McNamara
    Russ McNamara is the host of All Things Considered for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news to the station’s loyal listeners. He's been an avid listener of WDET since he moved to metro Detroit in 2002.